Nassar pleads guilty to 3 more sexual assault charges

Nassar pleads guilty in Eaton County

CHARLOTTE - For the second time in seven days, Larry Nassar — the once famed MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor — admitted to sexually assaulting young teens while he was supposed to be providing medical care.

He'll soon be sentenced to decades in prison.

Nassar, 54, pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Eaton County Circuit Court as part of a plea agreement with the Michigan Attorney General's Office, which is prosecuting him in state courts.

Last week, he pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Ingham County as part of a plea agreement there.

Both plea deals include agreements that his minimum sentence will be somewhere between 25 and 40 years in prison. The maximum end of the sentence, which will be set by judges in Ingham and Eaton counties early next year, is up to life in prison.

In exchange for Nassar pleading guilty in Eaton County, prosecutors have agreed to drop four other charges in here, not to add charges for other sexual assault incidents known at this time and not to charge on child pornography evidence that doesn't relate to the existing federal child pornography charges. 

Next week, Nassar will be sentenced in federal court in Grand Rapids on three child pornography charges. He pleaded guilty to those charges in July as part of an agreement that calls for a sentence of at least 22 years in prison. 

Nassar will likely begin serving his sentences, which could all run concurrent, in the federal prison system.

In an email, Chris Gautz, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections, said inmates with both federal and state sentences generally go to federal custody first. At the end of the federal sentence, if there's time remaining on the state sentence, the inmate would be transferred to state custody, he added.

Gautz said he couldn't speak specifically to Nassar. 

'Rising costs for MSU'

The three charges Nassar pleaded guilty to on Wednesday morning relate to sexual assaults at Twistars gymnastics club in Dimondale. 

He pleaded guilty to one count in connection with each of the three victims in the case. All were teens when they were abused. At least one of the sexual assaults included a victim younger than 13. Two of the women were abused at 15 or 16 years old. One of the victims is also a victim in the Ingham County case.  

The abuse included digital vaginal and anal penetration without gloves, consent or prior notice. The abuse took place in a back room of at Twistars, where Nassar saw many gymnasts over the years, according to court records and testimony. 

Twistars, Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, faces several federal lawsuits from more than 140 women and girls who say Nassar sexually abused them and the organizations didn't do enough to protect them. 

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Those lawsuits are in a mediation phase, set to expire Dec. 6, during which a settlement could be reached. 

MSU has been paying four different law firms for work on the lawsuits and with internal investigations. The university hired another law firm to handle insurance matters related to Nassar. 

As of Oct. 24, these five law firms have billed MSU for $5.3 million for 8,521 hours worked, according to invoices the State Journal obtained through a public records request. 

The university's most-expensive law firm —  Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom — is charging MSU rates as high as $990 per hour for each of three attorneys, with lower rates for several others. That law firm billed MSU $521,760 for work performed in August, and $264,371 for work performed in July, records show. In all, the law firm has billed MSU for more than $3.5 million, but that doesn't include work performed in September, October or November. 

The law firm of Latham & Watkins, which MSU is paying to handle insurance matters, has billed the university for nearly $1 million since June.

Nassar's 10 guilty pleas on sexual assault charges strengthen the lawsuits for the women and girls, but it doesn't assure success of their claims, said Barb McQuade, a law school professor at the University of Michigan.

"It advances their cases to some extent but it certainly hasn’t proven liability" for MSU, USA Gymnastics or Twistars, she said.

The guilty pleas establish that Nassar committed sexual assaults, which would have been the first requirement for the plaintiffs to prevail. 

Attorneys for the women and girls also will need to prove that the organizations knew or reasonably should have known about the abuse, McQuade said. 

And there are allegations in the lawsuits and public documents suggesting that they might have. 

Between 1997 and 2015 at least seven women or girls say they raised concerns about Nassar's actions to coaches, trainers, police or university officials.

Two women said in court documents they told an MSU coach, and one women said she told three trainers. All said they did so before 2000.

Nassar was investigated twice by police but never charged. In 2014, MSU's Title IX office investigated Nassar. The office investigates sexual assault and harassment complaints involving university students or employees.  

During that investigation, the university relied on four medical experts who each worked for MSU and had close ties to Nassar. All four sided with Nassar and the university cleared him.

Related: Nassar recommended expert who helped clear him in 2014

Related: Nassar planned return to clinic before end of 2014 inquiry

Related: MSU doctor resigned after removing Nassar patient files

However, before Nassar could return to clinical duties, the university instituted new protocols based on the woman's complaint. MSU later determined Nassar had not been following the protocols, which is in part why the university fired him last year amid a wave of new sexual assault allegations.

Nassar's guilty pleas have renewed calls for independent investigations of MSU officials

In a statement released last week, after the Ingham County plea hearing, MSU spokesman Jason Cody said the convictions represent "another important step toward justice for the victims" and that the university is grateful for the efforts of its police department, which investigated Nassar, and the AG's Office.

"As (MSU) President (Lou Anna) Simon has said, we recognize the pain sexual violence causes and deeply regret any time someone in our community experiences it," he said. "It takes tremendous courage for victims of sexual violence to come forward."

In a separate statement last week, Cody said university police and the FBI conducted a joint investigation earlier this year to determine if anyone other than Nassar committed a crime. 

"The results of that investigation were sent to the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan," he said. "We have no reason to believe that any criminal conduct was found."

Several messages seeking comment from the U.S. Attorney's Office have not been returned. 

Check back for updates. 

Related: At MSU: Assault, harassment and secrecy

Related: Larry Nassar and a career filled with ‘silenced’ voices

Click here for complete coverage of the Larry Nassar cases

Contact Matt Mencarini at (517) 267-1347 or mmencarini@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattMencarini.

What's next

Larry Nassar, 54, will be sentenced Jan. 31by Eaton County Circuit Court Judge Janice Cunningham. Nassar pleaded guilty Wednesday to three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in her court. His sentencing in Ingham County for seven guilty pleas there will take place on Jan. 12.

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