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The former doctor for the USA women's gymnastics team and Michigan State University, Larry Nassar, pleaded guilty Wednesday to molesting young athletes under the guise of medical treatment, after several women accused him of sexual assault.
Nassar pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Ingham County Circuit Court, according to the Detroit News, and is expected to face at least 25 years in prison when he is sentenced on January 12.
"For all those involved, I'm so horribly sorry that this was like a match that turned into a forest fire out of control," Nassar said Wednesday in court, adding that "we need to move forward in a sense of growth and healing and I pray (for) that."
Judge Rosemarie Aquilina responded by saying that Nassar violated his patients' trust by abusing 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," she said.
While Nassar has been accused by more than 130 women of sexually abusive behavior, the case in Ingham County stems from charges that he inserted ungloved fingers into eight women's vaginas and rectums at MSU's sports-medicine clinic when they were under the age of 16, according to the Detroit News.
“He convinced these girls that this was some type of legitimate treatment,” Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis said last summer, according to the New York Times. “Why would they question him? Why would they question this gymnastics god?”
Nassar also faces similar charges in Eaton County, Michigan, where he is expected to plead guilty next week. He is also awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to federal child pornography charges in July, in which he targeted victims as young as 6 years old.
Olympic gold medalists Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney recently spoke out accusing Nassar of sexually abusing them when they were teenagers. The Olympic gymnasts are not part of the Michigan cases.
Maroney tweeted that Nassar began molesting her when she was 13 and repeatedly abused her until she left the sport.
"People should know that this is not just happening in Hollywood," Maroney said. "I had a dream to go to the Olympics, and the things that I had to endure to get there, were unnecessary, and disgusting."
She said she experienced "the scariest night of my life" when she was 15 and had flown with her team to Tokyo.
"He'd given me a sleeping pill for the flight, and the next thing I know, I was all alone with him in his hotel room getting a 'treatment.' I thought I was going to die that night," she said.
In an interview with 60 Minutes, Raisman, who is now 23, did not detail the alleged sexual abuse by Nassar, but said she was first treated by him when she was 15. The three-time Olympic gold medalist explained that she didn't know what was happening.
"I was just really innocent—I didn't know," Raisman said. "I trusted him."
When asked if she thought it was medical treatment, she replied, "I didn't know anything differently."
"We were told 'he's the best doctor. He's the United States Olympic doctor and the USA Gymnastics doctor and we were very lucky we were able to see him,'" she said.
USA Gymnastics, the sport's governing body, fired Nassar in 2015, which is when it said it was made aware of the abuse.