VIDEO: Father of molested girls lunges at disgraced USA Gymnastics doctor in court
VIDEO: Father of molested girls lunges at disgraced USA Gymnastics doctor in court
The father, Randall Margraves, was nearly within striking distance of Nassar before officers tackled him to the floor in front of shocked spectators including his daughters. The judge later accepted Margraves’ explanation that he “lost control” of his emotions and said she would not punish him.
The chaotic scene began minutes after sisters Lauren and Madison Margraves had concluded tearful victim statements on the second day of a sentencing hearing in Eaton County, following similar presentations by scores of other women through previous court sessions.
Nassar has already been sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for his guilty plea in neighboring Ingham County to molesting young women under the guise of medical treatment. He is scheduled to receive an additional sentence on Monday for his guilty plea to related charges in Eaton County.
At a news conference with his family and attorney hours after the outburst, Margraves, apologized for his behavior, saying he was “remorseful” and “embarrassed” for losing his composure.
“I am no hero. My daughters are heroes, and all the victims and survivors of this terrible atrocity,” he said, adding that he became enraged when “I had to hear what was said in those (victim) statements, and I had to look over at Larry Nassar shaking his head.”
Margraves said he had never heard the explicit details of what his daughters endured at the hands of Nassar until he listened to their accounts in court.
A tall, burly man with thick gray hair, Margraves said his relationship with his daughters had long been “strained, distant and difficult. Now I know the main reason. The reason was Larry Nassar.”
“Now I have to deal with the fact that I failed to protect my daughters,” he added.
The courtroom disturbance came after Margraves, standing alongside his daughters and wife, asked if Judge Janice Cunningham, as part of sentencing, would “grant me five minutes in a locked room” with Nassar.The judge replied that was not an option and rebuked Margraves for his vulgar language in calling Nassar “a son of a bitch” in court. Margraves then asked for one minute alone instead. The judge demurred again as some in the courtroom laughed uncomfortably.
The father then bolted toward Nassar, seated in an orange jump suit behind a nearby table. Margraves’ daughters’ hands flew to their mouths, and one of Nassar’s lawyers moved to shield his client.
’WHAT IF THIS HAPPENED TO YOU?’
Gasps, cries and shouts filled the courtroom as Margraves was wrestled to the floor, knocking items off a desk on the way down before he was handcuffed, while Nassar was whisked to safety.
“One minute!” Margraves demanded repeatedly, his head pinned down. As uniformed officers pulled him from the courtroom, he implored them, “What if this happened to you guys?“
The judge then ordered a recess.
The attempted attack underscored the anguish Nassar’s abuse has caused his victims’ parents, some of whom were present in the doctor’s exam room even as Nassar, unbeknownst to them, was molesting their children. Several have spoken in court about the guilt they feel for exposing 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.”
The county sheriff said his office would decide by next week whether to seek criminal charges against Margrave for his conduct. An online fundraising page at the website GoFundMe had collected more than $18,000 for the father’s potential legal fees by early evening.
Following the recess in Friday’s proceedings, the judge declined to cite Margraves for contempt of court.
“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.”
Social media users expressed near universal support for Margraves.
“We all understand this father’s action,” said actor and pro-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 how Nassar abused 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.
Amazon urged not to sell facial recognition tool to police
- Facial recognition in American communities threatens this freedom
- Amazon's technology isn't that different from what face recognition companies are already selling to law enforcement agencies
SEATTLE: Amazon’s decision to market a powerful face recognition tool to police is alarming privacy advocates, who say the tech giant’s reach could vastly accelerate a dystopian future in which camera-equipped officers can identify and track people in real time, whether they’re involved in crimes or not.
It’s not clear how many law enforcement agencies have purchased the tool, called Rekognition, since its launch in late 2016 or since its update last fall, when Amazon added capabilities that allow it to identify people in videos and follow their movements almost instantly.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon has used it to quickly compare unidentified suspects in surveillance images to a database of more than 300,000 booking photos from the county jail — a common use of such technology around the country — while the Orlando Police Department in Florida is testing whether it can be used to single out persons-of-interest in public spaces and alert officers to their presence.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other privacy advocates on Tuesday asked Amazon to stop marketing Rekognition to government agencies, saying they could use the technology to “easily build a system to automate the identification and tracking of anyone.”
That could have potentially dire consequences for minorities who are already arrested at disproportionate rates, immigrants who may be in the country illegally or political protesters, they said.
“People should be free to walk down the street without being watched by the government,” the groups wrote in a letter to Amazon on Tuesday. “Facial recognition in American communities threatens this freedom.”
In an emailed statement, Amazon Web Services stressed that it requires all of its customers to comply with the law and to be responsible in the use of its products.
The statement said some agencies have used the program to find abducted people, and amusement parks have used it to find lost children. British broadcaster Sky News used Rekognition to help viewers identify celebrities at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle last weekend.
Amazon’s technology isn’t that different from what face recognition companies are already selling to law enforcement agencies. But its vast reach and its interest in recruiting more police departments — at extremely low cost — are troubling, said Clare Garvie, an associate at the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown University Law Center.
“This raises very real questions about the ability to remain anonymous in public spaces,” Garvie said.
While police might be able to videotape public demonstrations, face recognition is not merely an extension of photography but a biometric measurement — more akin to police walking through a demonstration and demanding identification from everyone there, she said.
Some police departments, including Seattle, have policies that bar the use of real-time facial recognition in body camera videos.
Amazon released Rekognition in late 2016, and the sheriff’s office in Washington County, west of Portland, became one of its first law enforcement agency customers.
A year later, deputies were using it about 20 times a day — for example, to identify burglary suspects in store surveillance footage. Last month, the agency adopted policies governing its use, noting that officers in the field can use real-time face recognition to identify suspects who are unwilling or unable to provide their own ID, or if someone’s life is in danger.
“We are not mass-collecting. We are not putting a camera out on a street corner,” said Deputy Jeff Talbot, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office. “We want our local community to be aware of what we’re doing, how we’re using it to solve crimes — what it is and, just as importantly, what it is not.”
It cost the sheriff’s office just $400 to load 305,000 booking photos — which are already public records — into the system and $6 a month in fees to continue the service, according to an email obtained by the ACLU under a public records request.
Last year, the Orlando, Florida, Police Department announced it would begin a pilot program relying on Amazon’s technology to “use existing city resources to provide real-time detection and notification of persons-of-interest, further increasing public safety.”
Orlando has a network of public safety cameras, and in a presentation posted to YouTube this month , Ranju Das, who leads Amazon Rekognition, said the company would receive feeds from the cameras, search them against photos of people being sought by law enforcement and notify police of any hits.
“It’s about recognizing people, it’s about tracking people, and then it’s about doing this in real time, so that the law enforcement officers ... can be then alerted in real time to events that are happening,” he said.
The Orlando Police Department said in an email that it “is not using the technology in an investigative capacity or in any public spaces at this time.”
The testing has been limited to eight city-owned cameras and a handful of officers who volunteered to have their images used to see if the technology works, Sgt. Eduardo Bernal wrote in an email Tuesday.
“As this is a pilot and not being actively used by OPD as a surveillance tool, there is no policy or procedure regarding its use as it is not deployed in that manner,” Bernal wrote.
The privacy advocates’ letter to Amazon followed public records requests from ACLU chapters in California, Oregon and Florida. More than two dozen organizations signed it, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Human Rights Watch.