Ex-MSU sports doctor pleads guilty to child porn charges

Larry Nassar
Former sports doctor Larry Nassar appears in court.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The doctor who treated U.S. Olympic gymnasts and students at Michigan State University has taken a plea deal on child pornography charges that will put him in federal prison for decades.

But the charges Larry Nassar pleaded guilty to Tuesday are only the tip of the iceberg for a man Michigan’s attorney general has called a “monster.”

Dr. Larry Nassar appeared in a Grand Rapids federal court where he pleaded guilty to receiving and attempting to receive child pornography, possessing child pornography, and destruction of possible evidence.

The former world-renown doctor was unshaven and wearing an orange jail jump suit as he admitted to possessing thousands of pornographic images of children, some under the age of 12.

The admission will cost him his medical license and up to 60 years of his freedom.

The federal government says the 53-year-old Holt resident had as many as 37,000 sexually explicit images of children on his computer some dating back to 2003.

Nassar said little besides directly answering the judge-magistrate where he admitted to downloading the images. He also admitted to paying $49 to have his work laptop wiped clean and then tossing a hard drive into the garbage outside his home when he knew he was being investigated.

There were no cameras allowed in the courtroom, where a few of the more than 100 women who claimed they were sexually abused by Nassar came to watch him plead in this case.

In exchange for the plea, the government will not charge as many as four cases it had involving child sexual exploitation.

The plea saves the alleged victims, some of whom are still minors, from having to testify in open court.

In court Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Lewis said Nassar has agreed to pay restitution for any victims known in the child pornography and also those in the uncharged cases.

But Nassar’s attorneys were quick to point out that their client does not admit guilt in any of the dozens of allegations of sexual abuse against him.

“Dr. Nassar’s position on the state case has not changed,” said Matt Newburg, Nassar’s attorney. “We intend to proceed to trial on those cases.”

While the maximum sentence for this case is 60 years, attorneys in this case say guidelines call for a sentence of 22-27 years. However, Judge Janet Neff will ultimately decide how long Nassar will serve in prison when she hands down the sentence, likely in November.

“This plea agreement decides not to prosecute the more serious charges that carry 15 years to life,” said civil attorney Stephen Drew who represents alleged victims. “They are going through a special type of trauma. When things happen to you as a child, it stays with you in different ways through life.”

Nassar did his undergraduate work at the University of Michigan before he got his medical doctorate from MSU and became a doctor there, working in sports and osteopathic medicine.

Nassar would then become a physician working with USA Gymnastics, which has sent many medal-winners to the Olympics.

That included Kalamazoo native Rachael Denhollander who turned to Nassar for help with wrist and back problems 17 years ago.

“He digitally penetrated me repeatedly over extended periods of time,” Denhollander said earlier this year. “It was clear he was someone they supported and was very confident my voice would not be heard.”

After Tuesday’s guilty pleas, the most likely scenario leaves Nassar in federal prison for less than 30 years.

Nassar faces 33 counts of criminal sexual conduct in Eaton and Ingham counties. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced the charges in February.

“This guy is despicable,” Schuette said in February. “He’s a monster.”

Since then, 119 women have filed civil lawsuits against Nassar, including 65 represented by attorney Drew, who was at Tuesday’s court hearing.

He said his clients are not happy that the more serious charges were not pursued by federal authorities.

“They want to make sure in coming forward – and this is not easy for them – that he does not get out of jail or prison and be able to do this again, supervised or not,” Drew said.

Some of the charges Nassar faces in state court, carry a maximum sentence of life in prison, and they can be sentenced consecutively. If convicted, it is unlikely that Nassar will get out of prison.