—Editor’s Note: Please be advised that the sixth paragraph of this story contains language that some readers may consider offensive
CHARLOTTE: The enraged father of three daughters who were sexually abused by Larry Nassar charged towards the former USA Gymnastics national team doctor and tried to attack him during a sentencing hearing in a Michigan courtroom on Friday.
The father, Randall Margraves, was nearly within striking distance of Nassar before officers tackled him roughly to the ground in front of his shocked daughters. The judge later accepted Margraves’ account that he “lost control” of his emotions and said she would not punish him.
The chaotic scene began after sisters Lauren and Madison Margraves had finished tearful victim statements on the second day of a sentencing hearing in Eaton County, much as nearly 200 women, including Margraves’ third daughter, did in earlier court sessions.
Standing alongside his daughters and wife, Margraves, a tall man with an intense gaze dressed in an electricians’ union sweatshirt, then 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 to the judge, 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 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 jumpsuit behind a nearby table. His daughters’ hands flew to their mouths, and one of Nassar’s lawyers moved to shield his client.
Gasps, cries and shouts filled the courtroom as Margraves was wrestled to the ground, knocking things off a desk on the way down, and handcuffed while Nassar was taken out to safety.
“One minute!” Margraves demanded repeatedly, his head pinned to the floor. As officers pulled him from the room, he implored them, “What if this happened to you guys?”
Margraves was then bundled out of the courtroom by uniformed officers, and the judge ordered a break in the proceedings.
Pain and guilt
The attempted attack underscored the pain Nassar’s abuse has caused his victims’ parents, some of whom had been present in the exam room while Nassar abused their children. Several have spoken in court about the guilt they feel for delivering their children to a sexual predator.
“I failed my own daughter,” Lynn Erickson said tearfully in court on Friday, as her daughter Ashley, one of Nassar’s victims, wiped away tears.
Margraves’ daughters had also described the impact on their parents. At Nassar’s first sentencing hearing last month, his oldest daughter Morgan said her father “went out driving to look for him around East Lansing” after news of his abuse broke.
“I‘m not exactly sure what he would have done if he saw him,” she said. “However, he felt he still had to protect us in the way fathers do for their daughters.”
During the lunch break, a handcuffed Margraves was brought back in from a courthouse cell for the judge to decide whether to hold him in contempt.
Accompanied by a lawyer, Margraves said he did not know exactly what his daughters were going to say.
“I got to hear that, and I got to see Larry Nassar over here shaking his head ‘no,’ like it didn’t happen,” he said. “I lost control.”
The judge accepted his explanation, though she made him promise he would not do anything like that again.
“There is no way that this court is going to issue any type of punishment, given the circumstances of this case,” Cunningham said. “My heart does go out to you and your family for what has happened to you.”
The county sheriff said his office would decide by next week whether to seek charges. An online fundraising page at the website GoFundMe had collected more than $9,000 for Margraves’ potential legal fees by 3 PM (2000 GMT).
Social media users expressed near universal support for Margraves.
“We all understand this father’s action,” said actor and wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. “Nassar’s punishment will go far beyond sentencing. Behind bars, he’ll soon know what hell means.”
Mariah McClain, who testified about Nassar’s abuse of her, said she had to leave the courtroom when Margraves erupted.
“It was just too much for me,” she said.
The case against Nassar, who is also serving a 60-year federal term for child pornography convictions, has sparked investigations into how US Olympic officials, USA Gymnastics, the sport’s governing body, and Michigan State University, where Nassar also worked, failed to investigate complaints about him going back years.