Doctor Accused Of Molesting U.S. Gymnasts Pleads Guilty To Porn Charges

July 11, 2017

Updated at 1:45 p.m. ET

Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, at the heart of a sexual abuse scandal involving more than 100 girls and women — including top American gymnasts — pleaded guilty Tuesday in Michigan federal court to three counts related to child pornography.

It’s the first time Nassar has admitted guilt in the case. In return for his admission of guilt, the plea bargain says prosecutors won’t pursue federal charges alleging sexual abuse of four young women.

Nassar still faces numerous charges in state court in Michigan. Following Tuesday’s hearing, Nassar’s attorneys said in a statement that Nassar’s “position on the state cases has not changed and we intend to proceed to trial. The plea today was negotiated only to resolve the federal charges.”

Nassar, who attended several Olympics games as team physician, worked for many years as a sports doctor at Michigan State University.

According to the deal, Nassar agreed to plead guilty to three federal counts relating to child pornography. The document states that between 2003 and 2016, Nassar knowingly possessed thousands of images and videos of child pornography.

He could get up to 20 years in prison on each pornography count.

In return for his guilty plea, federal authorities have agreed not to further prosecute Nassar “for sexual exploitation and attempted sexual exploitation of children.” That relates to allegations that Nassar molested two minors in his swimming pool in 2015. And he won’t be prosecuted for “interstate/international travel with intent and engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places.” This relates to a period between 2006 and 2013, when Nassar is alleged to have abused some elite U.S. gymnasts competing overseas.

“This affects any federal charge involving [alleged] abuse overseas or at the Karolyi ranch,” says John Manly, a lawyer for many of the plaintiffs. Famed gymnastics coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi have a ranch in Texas that serves as a training site for top U.S. female gymnasts.

Manly says the plea deal would affect about 10 percent of the estimated 119 women who have alleged sexual abuse by Nassar — but that would include some of the most prominent plaintiffs, including gymnasts who competed in the Olympics and other major sports competitions.

According to Manly, his clients’ reactions range from sadness to anger.

“The message the federal government is sending, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office is sending [with the plea bargain],” Manly says, “is either it didn’t happen or it doesn’t matter. In my view that’s a breach of faith with our athletes.”

A number of Michigan state sexual abuse cases against Nassar still are moving forward. If Nassar is convicted in those cases, he reportedly could receive a life sentence.

Nassar worked with female gymnasts in Michigan as far back as the late 1970s. In 1986, he became a member of the USA Gymnastics medical staff, a role in which he attended several Olympic games. In 1993, he earned an osteopathic medical degree from Michigan State University, where he worked from 1997 until last September, when the school fired Nassar amid the emerging allegations of longtime sexual abuse.

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