Nassar pleads guilty to all counts in child porn case; could face 22-27 years in prison

Larry Nassar, the former Michigan State University sports doctor accused of sexual abuse, says he obtained “thousands of images and videos” of child pornography over a 13-year period and then paid a vendor to delete all material on his computer to evade investigators.

The acknowledgement came in a written plea agreement read aloud this morning in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, where Nassar pled guilty to receipt of child pornography, possession of child pornography and destruction and concealment of records.

Nassar, who has been in custody since December, could get 22 to 27 years in prison based on sentencing guidelines and tentative scoring of the case, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Lewis. 

Nassar’s sentencing hearing will occur in about four months before U.S. District Judge Janet Neff, said U.S. Magistrate Ray Kent, who presided over today’s hearing. Neff will determine the sentence, which could be as long as 60 years in prison.

During the hearing, Nassar said the statements made in the plea agreement were true and agreed the government had enough evidence to convict him.

Nassar obtained thousands of images and videos of child porn between 2003 and 2016 on a AcomData hard drive, according to statements made in court today.

After he came under investigation in September 2016 for allegedly sexual abuse of patients, he brought his work laptop to a service store  and paid the store $49 to “completely wipe the computer,” the plea agreement said.

“The store permanently deleted all of the data at the defendant’s request, including the operating system. The defendant then turned the wiped laptop over to his employer,” the agreement said. Nassar’s employer was MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.

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The document said that Nassar also “threw away a number of hard drives, including the AcomData hard drive.” Those hard drives were recovered by police from Nassar’s trash can. 

“Thousands of images of child pornography” were found on two of the hard drives discarded, the document said. “At the time the defendant took the actions described above, he was aware that law enforcement was investigating his activities and he feared this investigation would reveal that he had, among other things, received and possessed child pornography.”

The plea agreement also said the pornography involved “sexually explicit images” of children under age 12, and “images of minor subject to sadistic or masochistic conduct or other depictions of violence.”

The plea agreement says that in exchange for Nassar’s guilty plea, the FBI will drop its investigation into conduct that allegedly occurred in his swimming pool during the summer 2015 involving two minor children and allegations of sexual abuse that occurred during interstate and international travel between 2006 and 2012 involving two other girls.

The interstate and international traveled involved Nassar’s work with top U.S. gymnasts while he was team doctor and chief medical director for USA Gymnastics, the organization that oversees the sports in the U.S. 

During the hearing today, Nassar said he is contesting the allegations involving the four girls. But he also said that he understood that Neff can use those allegations in determining his sentence.

Lewis said that he has talked with all four alleged victims, and they supported the plea agreement. Lewis also said the agreement does not prevent the federal government from investigating and prosecuting other allegations against Nassar.

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What to know about Nassar sex-abuse controversy

Nassar’s trial in the federal child porn case was scheduled for August.

The plea agreement does not affect criminal cases being prosecuted by the Michigan attorney general’s office.  Nassar faces 33 charges of criminal sexual conduct in Ingham and Eaton counties for alleged assaults that occurred at MSU’s sport-medicine clinic and his Holt home, and at Twistars, a gymnastics club in Dimondale. 

In addition, a total of 119 former patients have filed lawsuits alleging they were abused by Nassar.

Nearly all of the plaintiffs were adolescents or college-age women when they were treated by Nassar for back, hip and other injuries. The common allegation in the lawsuits is that Nassar’s treatments involved vaginal and/or anal penetration without their consent.

The allegations date from 1994 to 2016. 

What was portrayed as legitimate medical treatment was actually abuse, women say

Nassar stopped working with USA Gymnastics in 2015, and he was fired by MSU in September 2016.

Almost all of the suits list Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and Twistars as co-defendants, alleging those institutions ignored red flags about Nassar’s behavior.

MSU, which fired Nassar in September 2016, has denied wrongdoing. The MSU Office for Institutional Equity ruled against Nassar in a Title IX investigation into a complaint filed last August by Rachael Denhollander, who was treated by Nassar in 2000 when she was 15.

That investigation found a “preponderance of evidence” supported Denhollander’s allegations that she was sexually abused by Nassar under the guise of medical treatment.

Twisters has declined comment. 

USAG released an internal report in June that found that the organization failed to immediately report all allegations of abuse to law enforcement, and had no protocol for addressing sex-abuse complaints.

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MORE: ‘MSU doctor’s alleged victims talked for 20 years. Was anybody listening?’

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