LANSING, United States: Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Lawrence “Larry” Nassar, accused of molesting more than 100 female athletes over several decades, pleaded guilty on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) to multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct.
Nassar—who was involved with USA Gymnastics for nearly three decades and worked with the country’s gymnasts at four separate Olympic Games—could be sentenced to at least 25 years in prison.
Nassar faced 22 criminal counts of sexual assault in Michigan for abusing athletes under the guise of providing medical treatment.
As part of a plea agreement, Nassar admitted to seven counts of abuse. Three of his victims were under 13 years old, and the others were aged between 13 and 15.
A handcuffed and gaunt Nassar appeared in court in an orange prison jumpsuit. Speaking softly and at times with heavy sighs, he pleaded guilty with a simple “yes” as each charge was read.
He then addressed the court with a statement.
He said he prayed for his victims and was “horribly sorry” for his crimes, which relate to events in Michigan that took place between 1998 and 2015.
“I want them to heal. I want this community to heal,” Nassar said.
Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, addressing both Nassar and victims in the packed courtroom, said the former doctor’s words “fall very short.”
“You used that position of trust that you had in the most vile way—to abuse children,” Aquilina said.
“I agree that now is a time of healing. But, it may take them a lifetime of healing, while you spend your lifetime behind bars.”
Olympic gold medal-winning gymnasts Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Gabby Douglas are among those who have said Nassar abused them.
Raisman reacted to the court hearing on Twitter, calling Nassar “a MONSTER not a doctor.”
Rachael Denhollander, the first to publicly accuse Nassar, doubted his courtroom apology.
“He’s a consummate narcissist. He’s a master manipulator,” Denhollander said at a post-hearing news conference.
“I don’t believe there was anything sincere in what Larry said, other than his desire to refocus the attention on the good that he believed he did today.”
The Michigan charges stemmed from Nassar’s practice, based at Michigan State University, where prosecutors said 125 victims have come forward alleging abuse.