Jeanette Antolin first was treated by former Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar nearly two decades ago when she was 15 and training as an elite gymnast at the Karolyi Ranch, a national team training center in Texas.
Soon after, when she was competing on the national gymnastics team in New York, she alleges Nassar sexually assaulted her in his hotel room while treating her for back trouble.
Dozens of other assaults occurred after that, Antolin said, including incidents at world competitions in China and Switzerland.
Antolin shared her allegations with authorities who have been investigating Nassar, the former team physician for USA Gymnastics who’s accused of sexually assaulting more than 100 gymnasts. But last week, FBI officials told her that they were offering him a plea deal — and on Monday they told her he had accepted it.
Under the agreement, Nassar is scheduled to plead guilty Tuesday to three child pornography charges in return for federal authorities not pursuing prosecution on allegations of child sex abuse.
“It’s frustrating to know that justice for me is not going to happen, or for any of the other girls,” said Antolin, a southern California resident who’s now 35. “We were hurt and our government doesn’t want to put in the work to get him prosecuted. ... I feel like I gave up so much of my childhood to represent my country. This is a time I should be stood up for and people like Larry Nassar should be held accountable.”
The three child pornography charges include possession and receipt of more than 37,000 images and videos, and destruction of evidence. Nassar’s plea hearing is to take place in the western division of U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids. He initially pleaded not guilty when he was indicted.
Nassar will still face three trials in state court involving scores of criminal sexual conduct charges involving numerous women.
But the federal plea agreement, according to a court document obtained by The Detroit News, includes a controversial provision that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Grand Rapids will not prosecute Nassar for conduct that allegedly occurred in his swimming pool in summer 2015 involving two minor children or for alleged sexual misconduct that happened during interstate or international travel between 2006 and 2012 involving two other children.
Experts suggest that federal officials likely made the move to make sure Nassar goes to prison and never gets out. He is accused of digitally penetrating scores of women without gloves, lubricant or consent under the guise of medical treatment.
There are competing motives in a plea such as this but authorities need to maximize their leverage, said former criminal prosecutor Dan Schorr. He has investigated and tried sexual crimes in New York and teaches a sex crimes class at Fordham Law School.
“You want every victim of sexual violence to have justice ... but you also want to make sure a dangerous sexual predator is put away for the rest of his life,” said Schorr, co-head of the sexual misconduct and Title IX practice at Kroll, a consulting firm in New York.
Nassar is 53, Schorr noted, and is facing anywhere from 5 to 60 years in prison for the charges to which he is pleading guilty. Whether the deal is appropriate depends on what kind of sentence he receives.
“If the sentence means he’ll likely spend the rest of his time in prison, with additional state charges that would lead to more time still pending, then the federal government is going to want to make that agreement rather than risk the uncertainties of trial and the appeals process and having to have victims come forward and testify when some of them may not want to.”
Even so, many are outraged.
Among them is John Manly — a California-based attorney who represents more than 90 women in a lawsuit that accuses Nassar of sexually assaulting them, including nine elite gymnasts.
Manly said it is reprehensible that young women allegedly endured molestation in their rooms while competing during top gymnastics competitions in and outside the U.S. He said the FBI invested hundreds of thousands of dollars and hours around the world investigating Nassar, who was the team physician for USA Gymnastics during four Olympics
“It’s staggering,” he said Monday. “They promised these women he would get 25-60 years. To let him get away with this sends the message to them that (their allegations are) not that big of a deal. And frankly, my clients feel betrayed. When they told their stories to law enforcement, they trusted them. This is a breach of trust.”
He concluded: “My view is that any young women he abused, especially when they were competing for our country, ought to have their day in court if they want it.”
Since the first allegations against Nassar emerged last fall, more than 100 women have filed civil lawsuits against him and 100 women have filed complaints with MSU Police.
Rachael Denhollander, one of the first women to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual abuse, said on her Facebook page that the plea deal affects the federal investigation of all the gymnasts who allegedly were abused while traveling internationally, and all other charges related to the child pornography.
“That being said, while it doesn’t affect me directly, I am heartbroken for all these victims,” Denhollander wrote. “The number of children needed to make 37,000 images of child porn, the young girls videotaped by Nassar in his pool, and every elite and junior elite victimized while traveling internationally to compete. It’s a move of pure convenience, nothing more. Their voices should matter. This isn’t justice.”
Manly added that he hoped someone from the Department of Justice gets called before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and has to answer questions.
The agreement, if formally filed and accepted, means there will be no scheduled August federal trial for Nassar.