Nassar to plead guilty to child porn charges

4:36 AM ET

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics doctor who stands accused of sexually abusing more than 100 of his female patients, has agreed to plead guilty to federal child pornography charges, the latest development in his sprawling legal case.

The agreement, first reported by The Detroit News, relates only to the federal child pornography charges filed in December against Nassar. He has agreed to plead guilty to receiving child pornography, possession of child pornography and charges relating to his attempt to destroy and conceal evidence in the case.

According to the terms of the plea deal, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan has agreed not to prosecute Nassar for the arguably more serious charge of sexually exploiting children, including children he allegedly molested at his home, in his swimming pool and, the agreement states, during “interstate/international travel.”

That aspect of the agreement is particularly upsetting to former national team gymnasts who have accused Nassar of sexually abusing them during medical treatments at national and international competitions and at the famed Karolyi ranch run by former national team coaches Bela and Marta Karolyi.

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  • Nassar signed the plea agreement June 23. While it has yet to be filed with the court, Outside the Lines has obtained a copy of the agreement.

    “They’ve told our clients that they are not prosecuting their cases,” said John Manly, an attorney based in Irvine, California. Manly, along with his co-counsels, represents more than 90 of Nassar’s accusers, a list of clients that includes former Olympians and national team members.

    “Many of our clients have spoken to and given evidence to the FBI. They gave that evidence and went through the trauma of reliving their experiences with the expectation that they would get justice,” Manly told ESPN when reached by phone Sunday. “Dr. Nassar molested young women at the Olympics. He molested young women at national competitions. And our country is not going to charge him? The message that sends these women is: ‘You don’t matter.'”

    Manly said when news of the plea agreement first broke Friday that he received numerous calls from concerned clients.

    “My phone began to ring off the hook with questions from clients that I couldn’t answer, like: ‘How could they do this to us?'” Manly said. “These girls gave up their childhood to compete for their country, and they deserve better than this. This is cowardly.”

    More than 100 women have filed complaints with police and signed on to civil lawsuits against Nassar and others, claiming Nassar penetrated them vaginally and, in some cases, rectally without their consent, without gloves and for his own sexual gratification during medical treatments.

    The federal plea agreement, if it’s accepted by the court, would bring to an end one of four criminal cases against Nassar. The Michigan Attorney General’s Office has filed three cases in state court that include 22 charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Nassar could receive life in prison if convicted on the state charges.

    Nassar’s attorney, Matthew Newburg, would not comment on the plea agreement when reached Sunday by ESPN.

    Nassar is expected to formally accept the plea deal during a Tuesday morning hearing in federal court in Grand Rapids.

    Under the terms of the agreement, Nassar, 53, will admit that, between 2003 and 2016, he downloaded thousands of images and videos of child pornography.

    During that period, Nassar, an osteopathic physician, worked as the national medical coordinator for USA Gymnastics and was a fixture at national and international competitions. He also worked as a treating clinician at his alma mater, Michigan State, where he continued to see patients until he was fired by the school Sept. 20.

    According to the plea agreement, just days before he was dismissed from Michigan State, Nassar took his work laptop to a service and paid $49 to wipe the computer’s files, including the operating system.

    On Sept. 20, when police searched Nassar’s home in Holt, Michigan, they found four hard drives in a trash can outside his house, two of which contained the label “Larry Nassar Gymnastics,” according to testimony from Nassar’s December arraignment.

    An FBI special agent testified that those hard drives contained approximately 37,000 images and videos of child pornography, with images of girls as young as 6 or 7 years of age engaging in sex acts.

    While the court has discretion in the case, sentencing guidelines range from five to 20 years for each count Nassar faces.

    That means on the low end Nassar could receive a five-year prison sentence if the court determines he should receive the minimum sentences, running concurrently, and that Nassar could receive up to a 60-year sentence if the court gives him the maximum 20-year sentence, running consecutively.

    Over the past two weeks, special agents from the FBI and an assistant U.S. attorney have met with former national team gymnasts to explain the terms of the plea agreement, according to two people familiar with those meetings who spoke with Outside the Lines.

    In those meetings, the former national team members learned their cases against Nassar would not be prosecuted.

    “It just bothered me because all of our molestation cases didn’t get justice,” one former national team gymnast told Outside the Lines, after meeting with the FBI and federal prosecutors.

    “I get it that some girls don’t want their identities out there, but everyone that wants him to be charged should have that opportunity,” she added.

    The former national team gymnast asked ESPN not to use her name because she was instructed by a federal prosecutor not to speak with the media.

    The former gymnast said she was also told at the meeting with FBI agents and prosecutors that Nassar would likely be sentenced to at least 25 years for the federal child pornography charges.

    “If he gets any less than 25 to 40 years, I would be pissed,” the former gymnast said. “He deserves to spend the rest of his life in jail. He doesn’t deserve to be around people, especially children.”

    The former national team member added that she thinks FBI agents and federal prosecutors only met with her and other elite gymnasts to “smooth things over,” so the women wouldn’t react negatively to the upcoming federal plea agreement.


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