Nassar's Final Sentencing Hearing Interrupted as Dad Lunges at Ex-Doctor

"What if this happened to you guys?" the man said as bailiffs wrestled him to the ground

A father lunged at disgraced USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar in a Michigan courtroom Friday, yelling obscenities at the man who his three daughters say abused them.

As the second day of Nassar's final sentencing was underway, Randall Margraves had been standing alongside two of his children, who were delivering emotional statements against the ex-Olympic doctor. When the young women finished, Margraves asked the judge for time alone "in a locked room with this demon," saying he was a "distraught father."

"You know I can't do that," Judge Janice Cunningham replied.

Margraves then ran from behind the podium and lunged at Nassar, yelling and calling him a "son of a b----." Gasps, screams and cries could be heard from people in the room.

Defense attorney Matt Newburgh stood to shield his client, putting his hand out in front of Margraves. Bailiffs rushed to the witness table and wrestled the father to the ground.

"What if this happened to you guys?" Margraves could be heard saying from underneath the officers.

Margraves was placed in handcuffs, and both he and Nassar were escorted out of the courtroom.

Margraves' daughters had detailed the abuse they suffered at the hands of Nassar, with Lauren Margraves telling the judge that her parents were "filled with regret" because they took the girls to see the doctor.

"I see the look in their faces and I know they want to be able to do something but they can't," she told Nassar. "The guilt they have will never go away. All this is because of you."

Outside court, Melissa Alexander Vigogne, who traveled from France to speak, said she was surprised that an attack hadn't been attempted earlier.

"It's not that that's how we should respond. But it's truly understandable — the amount of pain that we've all gone through," Vigogne said of Margraves' actions.

After Margraves' stunning courtroom charge, Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis stood up and admonished the behavior, forcefully telling everyone to calm down.

"This is letting him have this power over us," she said. "We cannot behave like this. I understand this is a remarkable situation. But you cannot do this. This is not helping your children. This is not helping your community. This is not helping us."

"Use your words," Povilaitis said before the hearing was put on a break.

As the session resumed about 25 minutes later, the judge approached her bench and addressed the courtroom. Cunningham said the pain and suffering endured by Nassar's victims is "unthinkable," but that families can't react with physical violence.

"If we all can just take a deep breath and get back to the business of why we're here," she concluded.

Margraves later apologized for his outburst, saying that he was "embarrassed" and just wanted to help his daughters heal.

The judge told him there is "no way" she'll fine him or send him to jail under her contempt-of-court powers.

"I don't know what it would be like to stand there as a father and know that three of your girls were injured physically and emotionally by somebody sitting in a courtroom. I can't imagine that," the judge said.

Nonetheless, she said, it's unacceptable to "combat assault with assault."

"I cannot tolerate or condone vigilantism or any other type of action that basically comes down to an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," Cunningham added.

Sheriff Tom Reich said his officers will investigate what happened in court and send a report to the local prosecutor.

More than 30 victims have given statements at Nassar's third and final sentencing hearing focused on his activity at the Twistars club. The proceedings began Wednesday and will extend into next week.

One woman, who is now a doctor herself and specializes in gynecology, said Nassar molested her at age 11 at Twistars. Brittney Schumann said she couldn't be an advocate for women's health by staying anonymous, telling Nassar that he's a "disgrace" to the medical profession.

Others who spoke are familiar with Twistars' environment. One alleged that owner John Geddert was aware in the late 1990s that Nassar had performed an "inappropriate procedure" on her when she was 16.

The victim said she told her mother in 1998 that Nassar had sexually assaulted her during an appointment at the Michigan State University sports medicine clinic. Her mother talked to Geddert, and the two agreed that Nassar would not treat her daughter in private appointments again, according to the accuser, whose anonymous statement was read in court by a prosecutor.

"Why did John continue to refer his athletes to Larry knowing full well his treatments?" asked the woman, who expressed guilt for not calling the police for another 18 years, after she read a 2016 Indianapolis Star story in which two former gymnasts, including an Olympic medalist, alleged that Nassar had sexually abused them.

After the conversation between Geddert and her mother, she remembered, Geddert was "upset" and "mad."

"This was what I had to do so I didn't have to see Larry alone again," she said.

The 60-year-old Geddert has been suspended by USA Gymnastics, the sport's governing body, and has announced his retirement. He transferred ownership of the gym — which bills itself as the top-ranked club for women's competitive gymnastics — to his wife, Kathryn. He previously was head coach of another club, Great Lakes Gymnastics, for a dozen years.

The Associated Press left a message seeking comment with his lawyer. In court filings related to lawsuits, Geddert has said he was unaware of Nassar's crimes.

Another change came within USA Gymnastics Friday when Valeri Liukin stepped down as the coordinator of the U.S. women's team, a position he had held since Sept. 2016, NBC News reported.

"The present climate causes me, and more importantly my family, far too much stress, difficulty and uncertainty," he said in a statement. "It is time to move on in a different direction, at least for now. I wish the coaches and athletes continued success, and I stand ready to encourage and support all of them from a different vantage point."

USA Gymnastics did not immediately respond to NBC News' request for comment on his resignation.

And the U.S Olympic Committee announced Friday that it hired a law firm to conduct an independent investigation into the abuse.

Bailey Lorencen, a former gymnast whose statement was read in court Wednesday and who confronted Nassar at a similar hearing last week, singled out Geddert for his inaction. "There is no excuse for you not knowing what is happening in your gym," she said.

The woman who alleged that Geddert was aware of concerns about Nassar long ago said she spoke with him in 2016, after the allegations against Nassar exploded into public view.

"In our conversation, though it was brief and though he denied knowing about my assault, he went on to tell me that what Larry did was a medical treatment, and I needed to do my research," she said.

Nassar's two prison sentences — 60 years for child pornography and 40 to 175 years for abusing young women and girls at the university and his home — have cast Twistars and Geddert in particular in a negative light.

Women and girls describe Geddert as abusive and dismissive of injuries. Nassar, by contrast, tried to curry favor with gymnasts by giving them Olympic pins and other gifts.

Makayla Thrush, who trained at the club from ages 7 to 17, said she developed an eating disorder because of Geddert and accused him of becoming so angry that he threw her on top of a low bar, ruptured the lymph nodes in her neck, gave her a black eye and tore the muscles in her stomach, ending her career.

"I have been dealing with many mixed emotions the past few weeks, some of it having to deal with the enablers of the abusers trying to get out of their screw-up," she said. "There isn't one bone in my body that doesn't hate John Geddert for everything he has done to me in my career."

Lindsey Lemke, who was a gymnast at Michigan State and Twistars, said Geddert deserves "to sit behind bars right next to Larry."

Last month, ESPN reported that Geddert was accused in two separate incidents of physically assaulting a parent who also was a coach at Twistars and assaulting a gymnast. He did not face charges.

In Michigan, it is a misdemeanor punishable by up to three months in jail and a $500 fine for certain professionals to fail to report suspected child abuse. Legislators are considering whether to add coaches to the list of mandatory reporters, which includes medical professionals and therapists.

A spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette declined to say if Twistars or Geddert is under investigation.

Geddert's national profile rose while training Jordyn Wieber, the 2011 world all-around champion and a member of the "Fierce Five" that won a team gold at the 2012 Olympics in London, with Geddert as head coach.

Nassar accompanied the team to London, and six-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman said recently that he abused her there. Wieber said she also was assaulted by Nassar but did not mention Geddert or Twistars in her statement.

Associated Press writers David Eggert and Mike Householder and NBC editor Liz Lane contributed to this report.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us