Victims’ father tries to attack ex USA Gymnastics doctor in courtroom

Steve Friess, Reuters

Posted at Feb 03 2018 01:16 AM

Randall Margraves (second from left) lunges at Larry Nassar, (wearing orange) a former USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, during victim statements of his sentencing in Charlotte, Michigan Friday. Rebecca Cook, Reuters

The enraged father of three daughters sexually abused by Larry Nassar lunged at the former USA Gymnastics national team doctor during a sentencing hearing in a Michigan courtroom on Friday. Court guards pinned him to the ground before he could attack Nassar.

The chaotic scene began after sisters Lauren and Madison Margraves had finished reading their victim statements on the second day of hearings at a court in Eaton County. Standing alongside his daughters and wife, Randall Margraves asked to speak.

"I would ask you as part of the sentencing to grant me five minutes in a locked room with this demon," he said, gesturing toward Nassar, who has already been sentenced to up to 175 years in prison at an earlier hearing after pleading guilty to molesting young women under the guise of medical treatment.

Judge Janice Cunningham told him he knew she could not do that, and chastised him for cursing after he called Nassar a son of a bitch. He asked for one minute alone instead. The judge demurred as some in the courtroom laughed uncomfortably.

Margraves then bolted towards Nassar, seated in an orange jump suit nearby. Gasps, cries and shouts filled the courtroom as Margraves was wrestled to the ground and put in handcuffs while Nassar was taken out to safety.

"What if this happened to you guys?" he implored of the court officers as they pulled him out the room.

Looking distressed, the lead prosecutor, Angela Povilaitis, turned to the victims and relatives in the courtroom and tried to restore calm.

"I understand Mr. Margraves' frustration but you cannot do this," she said. "This is not helping your children."

The hearing resumed after a short break, with the judge addressing what she called a "scary" scene.

"My heart started beating fast and my legs started shaking," Cunningham said. "We cannot react by using physical violence," she said, noting she could not imagine Margraves' pain as a father.

Nassar is also serving a 60-year federal term for child pornography convictions.

His case has sparked broader outrage after numerous victims accused USA Gymnastics, the sport's governing body, and Michigan State University, where Nassar worked, of failing to investigate complaints about him going back years. U.S. Olympic officials have also been criticized by some of the sport's biggest stars, including gold medalists Aly Raisman, Simone Biles and McKayla Maroney.

On Thursday, the police department in Meridian, Michigan, apologized publicly to one victim for declining to press charges against Nassar in 2004 when she reported that he abused her. The Wall Street Journal also said on Thursday that U.S. Olympic officials did not intervene after being told in 2015 that USA Gymnastics had uncovered possible abuse by Nassar.

USA Gymnastics' board of directors agreed to a demand by the U.S. Olympic Committee that they all resign in the wake of Nassar's sentencing, as did the president and athletic director of Michigan State. The scandal has prompted several investigations into those institutions. (Reporting by Joseph Ax and Jonathan Allen; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Andrew Hay)