Larry Nassar sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison

AP
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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — After listening to the riveting pleas of more than 150 victims, a judge sentenced Larry Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison, saying she “signed your death warrant.”

“Your crime, all of your crimes, the depth of them, have cut into the core of this community and many communities and all of the families and many people we don’t even know,” Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said Wednesday. “You have not yet owned what you did. You still think that somehow you are right, that you’re a doctor, you’re entitled, that you don’t have to listen and that you did treatment I wouldn’t send my dogs to you, sir. There’s no treatment here.

“Your decision to assault was precise, calculated, manipulative, devious, despicable. I don’t have to add words because your survivors have said all of that.

“You do not deserve to walk outside a prison ever again.”

The former USA Gymnastics national team doctor parlayed his reputation and personal charm into years of sexual abuse by molesting Olympic gymnasts and other young female athletes instead of solving their sports injuries.

“Your words these past several days, your words, your words,” Nassar said as he circled to face his victims in the gallery before the sentencing, “have had a significant emotional effect on myself and have shaken me to my core. I also recognize that what I am feeling pales in comparison to the pain, trauma and emotional destruction [to the victims]. … An acceptable apology to all of you is impossible.”

USA Gymnastics CEO and president Kerry Perry said in a statement that the organization “applauds” the sentence “for his horrific behavior.”

U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun apologized, saying, “the Olympic family is among those that have failed you.”

“We have strongly considered decertifying USAG as a National Governing Body,” Blackmun wrote in a letter. “But USA Gymnastics includes clubs and athletes who had no hand in this and who need to be supported. We believe it would hurt more than help the athletes and their sport. But we will pursue decertification if USA Gymnastics does not fully embrace the necessary changes in their governance structure along with other mandated changes under review right now.”

Aquilina heard from a few more victims and then sent Nassar to prison Wednesday, the seventh day of a remarkable hearing that gave the girls, young women and their parents a chance to confront him in court.

He faced a minimum prison term of 25 to 40 years.

Nassar was previously sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography crimes in December. He is scheduled to be sentenced next week on more assault convictions in Eaton County, Mich.

Among those who spoke Wednesday: Rachael Denhollander, a Kentucky woman who contacted Michigan State University police in 2016 after reading reports about how USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians, mishandled complaints of sexual misconduct.

Nassar worked at Michigan State.

“The sentence rendered today will send a message across this country, a message to every victim and a message to very perpetrator,” Denhollander said, asking for the maximum sentence. “This sentence will send a message about how seriously abuse will be taken. So I ask, how much is a little girl worth?”

Nassar, 54, eventually pleaded guilty to assaulting seven people in the Lansing area, including Denhollander, but the sentencing hearing was open to anyone who said they were a victim.

His accusers said he would use his ungloved hands to penetrate them, often without explanation, while they were on a table seeking help for various injuries.

“I was a good doctor because my treatments worked, and those patients that are now speaking out were the same ones that praised and came back over and over and referred family and friends to see me,” Nassar wrote in a letter to the judge last week, read by the judge Wednesday. “The media convinced them that everything I did was wrong and bad. They feel I broke their trust. Hell hath no fury like a woman’s scorn. It is a complete nightmare. The stories that are being fabricated to sensationalize this.”

The accusers, many of whom were children, said they trusted Nassar to care for them properly, were in denial about what was happening or were afraid to speak up. He sometimes used a sheet or his body to block the view of any parent in the room.

“I’d been told during my entire gymnastics career to not question authority,” a former elite gymnast, Isabell Hutchins, said Tuesday.

Aquilina praised the victims who appeared in her court since Jan. 16, calling them “sister survivors,” while also assuring them that their perpetrator will pay. T

The women included Olympic champions Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber and McKayla Maroney.

“Your words are vital. They are as strong as your martial arts,” Aquilina told Christina Barba, who has known Nassar for decades and practices karate. “They will take him down quicker and cleaner than any kick you’ve got.”

Hutchins and Mattie Larson, a 2010 World Championships silver medalist, talked about how Nassar won their allegiance with candy, Olympic trinkets and encouraging words while they were under constant scrutiny from their demanding coaches.

Brooke Hylek, a gymnast who plans to compete in college, heaped scorn on Nassar.

“I cannot believe I ever trusted you and I will never forgive you,” she said Tuesday. “I’m happy you will be spending the rest of your life in prison. Enjoy hell by the way.”

Emily Morales had a softer message.

“I want you to apologize to me right here,” the 18-year-old told Nassar. “I want to forgive you, but I also want to hear you tell me that you regret all the hurting you caused.”

He did. She replied with, “Thank you.”