NEW YORK • The team doctor accused of molesting scores of young athletes while working with the United States gymnastics team and Michigan State University pleaded guilty to seven counts of sexual assault on Wednesday in Ingham County (Michigan) Circuit Court.
Sentencing is set for Jan 12 and he is expected to face at least 25 years in prison or even up to 40 years.
Lawrence G. Nassar, 54, was charged with the molestation of seven girls, most of whom were gymnasts, but he has also been accused of various levels of inappropriate or abusive sexual behaviour by a group of more than 130 women and girls, including Olympic gold medallists Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Gabby Douglas.
He is facing likely prison sentences in two other courts as well. He faces similar charges in another county in Michigan, and a plea hearing in that case could take place next week, and he also faces a sentencing hearing next month in federal court for three child pornography crimes he has pleaded guilty to.
As part of a plea agreement, Nassar admitted to seven counts of abuse. Three of his victims were under 13 years old, and the others were aged between 13 and 15.
In a brief statement on Wednesday, Nassar said he made the plea "to move the community forward and stop the hurting".
"I want them to heal. I want this community to heal, I pray every day for forgiveness," he said.
PAIN MAY TAKE A LIFETIME TO HEAL
You used your position of trust in the most vile way: to abuse children. I agree that now is a time of healing, but it may take them a lifetime of healing while you spend your life behind bars thinking of what you did by taking away their childhood.
JUDGE ROSEMARIE AQUILINA, admonishing the accused.
Judge Rosemarie Aquilina responded: "You used your position of trust in the most vile way: to abuse children. I agree that now is a time of healing, but it may take them a lifetime of healing while you spend your life behind bars thinking of what you did by taking away their childhood."
In a statement, Nassar's lawyers Matthew Newburg and Shannon Smith said: "The agreement which was placed on the record today was reached after extensive negotiations with the prosecution and with significant input from Larry Nassar.
"This agreement resolves all the charged and uncharged conduct for more than 125 cases currently under investigation by the Michigan Attorney-General's office."
Since one woman first publicly accused Nassar of assault last September, dozens have come forward in lawsuits against him, USA Gymnastics and Michigan State, where he worked full-time and treated local athletes at a campus clinic.
Maroney was the first of the gold medal-winning gymnasts to publicly accuse Nassar when she revealed details of her abuse last month, and Jamie Dantzscher, a bronze medallist from the 2000 team, was among the initial group of accusers last year.
The case was part of a wide-ranging scandal which forced the resignation of USA Gymnastics chief Steve Penny in March. He was accused by victims of failing to quickly notify the authorities about abuse allegations.
In response, USA Gymnastics has adopted a new "safe sport policy" that requires "mandatory reporting" of suspicions of sexual abuse.
NYTIMES, WASHINGTON POST, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE