Larry Nassar entered a plea of guilty to sexual assault in a Michigan courtroom. Looking frail and thin, Nassar admitted to seven counts of first-degree sexual assault. In exchange for his guilty plea, Michigan prosecutors dismissed several other counts against him. Nassar will be sentenced next month.
Nassar’s plea comes after he already pleaded guilty to charges of child pornography in a federal court. He’ll be sentenced on those charges soon. In addition to the child pornography charges, federal attorneys also say that Nassar hid evidence in the case.
The plea comes as even more gymnasts have come out to accuse Nassar of abuse. Olympians Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney all say that Nassar abused them too. Raisman says that USA gymnastics told her not to offer information about the case.
Raisman said that the abuse first began when she was 15 years old and competing in Australia. She says that USA Gymnastics allowed Nassar to enter her hotel room alone under the guise of offering treatment. She says that USA Gymnastics officials encouraged her to seek out Nassar’s treatment. Nassar gained her trust by being sympathetic to the rigors of elite gymnastics training. He also offered her treats and gifts.
In addition to the criminal cases, Nassar faces a barrage of civil lawsuits. Victims have also brought suits against USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University. USA Gymnastics backed out of a deal with famed gymnastics coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi to buy a portion of their property for a training facility in part because victims say that the Karolyis didn’t do enough to prevent the abuse.
Because of the allegations, the U.S. Olympic Committee threatened to withdraw their funding from USA Gymnastics. President Steve Penny resigned. USA Gymnastics officials conducted an internal investigation and initiated a program called Safe Sport which is designed to better help report abusers.
Victims say these efforts aren’t enough. They want the entire board to resign. They say that the entire USA Gymnastics leadership encouraged a culture that prevented women from speaking out. They say they were afraid to speak out because they were afraid of losing their spots on the highly competitive, elite gymnastics team that won gold at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games. Raisman said that women in the elite program faced scrutiny for things like eating a piece of pizza after a competition.
Nassar will likely spend years in prison. Dozens of victims will have the opportunity to speak at sentencing. Nassar will also have the opportunity to speak.