LANSING, MI (WLNS) – For the first time in more than a year, former MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar admitted to sexually abusing young women and girls under the guise of medical treatment.
Among the many people packed inside the courtroom Wednesday morning were his accusers, who sat and listened as he pleaded guilty to seven counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct in connection with seven victims.
Visibly emotional, his voice at times shaken, the former doctor admitted to using his power and authority to sexually abuse young women and girls, all but one of them during medical appointments.
More than 100 women and girls have accused Nassar of sexual abuse. Some of them were in court Wednesday morning, wiping away tears as they heard Nassar speak.
After admitting guilt, the man who used to be one of the most respected doctors in his field said this to the court:
“I think this is important that what I’ve done today to help move a community forward and away from the hurting,” Nassar said. “I’m so horribly sorry that this was like a match that turned into forest fire out of control and I pray the rosary every day for forgiveness, for their forgiveness. I want them to heal; I want this community to heal. I have no animosity towards anyone. I just want healing.. It’s time.
In exchange for Nassar’s guilty pleas, prosecutors agreed to drop several other charges against him.
They will also not add any additional charges for dozens of other sexual assault cases.
Nassar also agreed to a lifetime of electronic monitoring.
Judge Rosemarie Aquilina accepted the terms of the deal.
“You violated the oath that you took which is to do no harm and you harmed them, selfishly,”Judge Aquilina said.
She also recognized all the victims who gathered at the hearing.
“The showing of them today, I’m very proud of them for being here for finding those voices,” she said. “That tells me they’re finding the strength to come here today to show you they’re not victims anymore.”
“I’m still processing it, I have mixed emotions,” Larissa Boyce said. “The hardest part was when he walked in and he stared at us.”
Boyce, who is among more than the 130 women and girls who are suing MSU and USA Gymnastics in a civil lawsuit, said it’s hard to process the fact that Nassar has pleaded guilty to these crimes.
She also said she’s not buying his apology.
“I kind of feel like it was a manipulation tactic of him saying well I’m doing this for you guys, I’m doing this so you can start healing and the community can start healing,” she said.
“That’s our choice, not his,” Jessica Smith said. “It’s our choice when we heal.”
Boyce, Smith, Alexis Alvarado and Christine Harrison, who all accuse Nassar of sexual abuse, talked about the many thoughts running through their minds as they listened to Nassar pleading guilty.
“I personally was thinking that the man that we trusted and helped us, he doesn’t exist,” Smith said.
Harrison said while it wasn’t easy to do, she’s happy she attended the hearing.
“When I heard him say he was guilty, I’m happy about that,” she said. “It’s like all these years we haven’t been able to talk or second guess what he was doing and now it’s finally making sense and hearing it from him today is going to allow us to move forward.”
Alvarado said Wednesday’s hearing helped bring her some closure.
“I think it can help us move on and like Christine said, we know that we’re not crazy, we weren’t just making this up in our heads,” she said.
“Brings motivation to make change for future, our students and the people we care about and everyone around us that this won’t happen to them, certainly not by this man,” Smith said.
Nassar’s attorneys, Matthew Newburg and Shannon Smith said the agreement was reached after extensive negotiations with the prosecution and with significant input from Nassar.
They statement released the following statement after the hearing:
“This agreement resolves all the charged and uncharged conduct for more than 125 cases currently under investigation by the Michigan Attorney General’s office. As our client indicated in court today, he hopes that his guilty plea begins the healing process for those individuals whom have been the subject of the state criminal prosecution. We ask that the privacy of his family be honored as they continue to process the events of the last 10 months.”
A plea hearing has been set next week in Eaton County where he also faces several sexual assault charges. That will happen November 29th.
Nassar will be sentenced for his Ingham County crimes in January. The judge also said Wednesday that all Nassar victims will be allowed to speak at his sentencing.