Judge admonishes victims’ dad who lunged at Nassar

Former sports doctor pleaded guilty to sexual assaults at Lansing-area gymnastics club

Larry Nassar
Deputies tackle a distraught father who lunged at former MSU doctor Larry Nassar during his sexual assault sentencing. (Feb. 2, 2018)

CHARLOTTE, Mich. (AP/WOOD) — A distraught father seething over sexual abuse suffered by his three daughters tried to attack former sports doctor Larry Nassar in a Michigan courtroom Friday, after a judge declined his request to confront the “demon” in a locked room.

Randall Margraves’ stunning rush at the disgraced doctor reflected the anguish felt by parents who trusted Nassar with their children.

Margraves was blocked by an attorney, tackled by sheriff’s deputies and hauled out of court. He later expressed his regret as he faced the judge around noon.

WARNING: Graphic language in below video; viewer discretion advised.

“I lost control and apologize 100 times,” he said.

Late Friday afternoon, Margraves appeared at his attorney’s office along with his wife and three daughters.

>>App users: Hear Randall Margraves’ response during a Friday afternoon news conference here.

“I want to make it clear that I am no hero. My daughters are the heroes, and so are all the victims, the survivors of this terrible atrocity,” he said.

Despite earlier testimony of a daughter during one of Nassar’s trials, Margraves said he was not aware of the graphic nature of the incidents.

“When I had to hear what was said in those statements, and I have to look over at Larry Nassar shaking his head, that’s when I lost control,” he said, adding he was remorseful, apologetic and embarrassed by his outburst.

>>App users: Watch the father’s response and statements from Nassar survivors here.

Eaton County Judge Janice Cunningham said there was “no way” she would fine him or send him to jail under her contempt-of-court powers.

“I don’t know what it would be like to stand there as a father and know that three of your girls were injured physically and emotionally by somebody sitting in a courtroom. I can’t imagine that,” the judge said.

Nonetheless, she added, it’s “not acceptable that we combat assault with assault.”

“I cannot tolerate or condone vigilantism or any other type of action that basically comes down to an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” Cunningham said.

While Cunnigham decided not to hold Margraves in civil contempt, it’s not clear if Margraves legal troubles are over. The Eaton County prosecutor could still hold in him in criminal contempt.

Eaton County Sheriff Tom Reich would not say whether he’d recommend the prosecutor file charges.

“Here we’ve got a victim’s father who heard for the first time in the courtroom of what occurred,” said Reich. “As a parent myself and… hearing that for the first time, I can only imagine what he went through.”

The incident occurred during the third and final sentencing hearing for Nassar, who has admitted to sexually assaulting women and girls under the guise of medical treatment. This case focuses on his work at Twistars, an elite gymnastics club southwest of Lansing. It follows a hearing last week where Nassar, 54, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for assaults at Michigan State University and his home.

Nassar pleaded guilty to molesting nine victims in Eaton and Ingham counties, but the court hearings have been open to anyone who says they were assaulted during Nassar’s decades of work at Michigan State, Twistars and USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians. More than 200 accusers so far have spoken or submitted statements in the two counties, and 80 percent have agreed to be publicly identified.

>>App users: Listen to Friday afternoon’s statements from survivors here.

Margraves’ dramatic move occurred after he listened to two of his daughters speak in court for 10 minutes. Lauren Margraves, a college student, said her parents were “filled with regret” because they took three daughters to see Nassar for sports injuries.

“I see the look in their faces and I know they want to be able to do something but they can’t,” she told Nassar. “The guilt they have will never go away. All this is because of you.”

Her father then stepped up and asked the judge if she would grant him “five minutes in a locked room with this demon.” Cunningham declined and also turned down his request for “one minute.” That’s when Margraves rushed toward Nassar.

There were gasps and tears in the courtroom. Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis turned to the gallery and told families to “use your words,” not violence.

“This is letting him have this power over us,” she said. “We cannot behave like this.”

>>App users: Hear the final victim impact statements here.

Outside court, Melissa Alexander Vigogne, who traveled from France to speak, said she was surprised that an attack hadn’t been attempted earlier.

“It’s not that that’s how we should respond. But it’s truly understandable — the amount of pain that we’ve all gone through,” Vigogne said of Margraves’ actions.

The judge started the day by addressing comments made by a Nassar lawyer who said she had doubts about the large number of women and girls who say they were assaulted by Nassar. Cunningham called Shannon Smith’s remarks “unfortunate” and said Nassar didn’t authorize them.

Smith told Detroit radio station WWJ that it’s “really unfortunate” if some people stepped forward only because of all the recent attention. Nassar released a statement saying Smith’s comments were a distraction and that his accusers’ remarks “have pierced my soul.”

Many of Nassar’s accusers have blamed Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee for not doing more earlier to stop him. The USOC announced Friday that it hired a law firm to conduct an independent investigation. And the coordinator of the women’s national team for USA Gymnastics, Valeri Liukin, said he was stepping down.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who has launched an investigation into how MSU handled Nassar, announced the creation of a hotline and online complaint form on Friday. Anyone who believes they have credible information related to the investigation is encouraged to email msuinvestigation@michigan.gov anytime or call 844.324.3374 weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Nassar is expected to be sentenced in his third case on Monday. His first sentence, 60 years in a federal prison, was ordered in December for child pornography crimes.

— AP reporter Ed White in Detroit contributed to this story.