AP

Larry Nassar sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison

4 Comments

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.”

Alex Zanardi, auto racer turned Paralympic champion, has 5-hour surgery to rebuild face after crash

Alex Zanardi
AP
Leave a comment

SIENA, Italy (AP) — Italian auto racing champion-turned-Paralympic gold medalist Alex Zanardi underwent a five-hour surgery Monday to reconstruct his face following a crash on his handbike last month.

It was the third major operation that Zanardi has had since he crashed into an oncoming truck near the Tuscan town of Pienza on June 19 during a relay event.

Dr. Paolo Gennaro of Santa Maria alle Scotte Hospital in Siena said the operation required three-dimensional digital and computerized technology that was “made to measure” for Zanardi.

“The complexity of the case was fairly unique, although this is a type of fracture that we deal with routinely,” Gennaro said in a hospital statement.

After the surgery, Zanardi was returned to the intensive care unit in a medically induced coma.

“His condition remains stable in terms of his cardio-respiratory status and grave in terms of his neurological status,” the hospital medical bulletin read.

The 53-year-old Zanardi, who lost both of his legs in an auto racing crash nearly 20 years ago, has been on a ventilator since the crash.

Zanardi suffered serious facial and cranial trauma, and doctors have warned of possible brain damage.

Zanardi won four gold medals and two silvers at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics. He also competed in the New York City Marathon and set an Ironman record in his class.

Last month, Pope Francis penned a handwritten letter of encouragement assuring Zanardi and his family of his prayers. The pope praised Zanardi as an example of strength amid adversity.

Shawn Johnson East shares struggles with body image, prescription drugs

Shawn Johnson
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Shawn Johnson East, a 2008 Olympic gymnastics champion, detailed past struggles with body image and prescription drugs and reflected on her eating disorder as an elite athlete, to show there is hope to others in difficult situations.

“It all started with pregnancy and having my daughter,” East, who had daughter Drew in October, said on TODAY on Monday. “I had so many people asking me questions about how did pregnancy affect you mentally and how did you get your body back after having your daughter. I couldn’t answer that without giving a greater and a larger story.”

East first went public about her undiagnosed teenage eating disorders in 2015, three years after retiring from the sport. She said she limited herself to 700 calories per day and didn’t tell her parents.

In a June YouTube video, Johnson said she also binged and purged, including while dating future husband Andrew in the mid-2010s. And that she had depression and anxiety in 2011, when she returned to competition for the first time since the Beijing Games.

“I thought it would fix all of my problems,” East said of returning to gymnastics for a 2012 Olympic bid.

When East won “Dancing with the Stars” in 2009, she “hit a very low spot” going through puberty on national TV. She said she gained 15 pounds after the 2008 Olympics and started taking medications and drugs “to look like I did at the Olympics.” It included fad diets, diuretics and a three-week stretch of eating nothing but raw vegetables.

“Most pain of my entire life because I couldn’t digest anything,” she said.

At some point in 2011, East began feeling burned out. She was back to eating too few calories and overtraining. An unnamed USA Gymnastics doctor prescribed her Adderall “to lose more weight, have more energy and be more successful in gymnastics.” She took “heavy doses.”

“It helped my performances, but there were massive consequences to it,” she said. “I continued to compete into 2012, where I just started to get depressed.

“I was overdosing on Adderall. I was overdosing on any medication that wouldn’t be caught by USADA.”

Adderall was a banned substance in competition without a therapeutic use exemption, but was legal outside of competition.

“I was so controlled by other people’s opinions that I wouldn’t live up to that Olympic standard that I did anything to get it back and I could never have it back,” East said. “I didn’t learn that until later on.”

East’s mental hurdles re-emerged when she had a miscarriage in 2017. She blamed herself, believing her unhealthy lifestyle in the past was a contributor.

“Our natural inclination is to say, what did I do? And what did I do wrong?” she said. “It haunted me. I felt like I had sacrificed everything for an Olympic medal to not actually get the dream I had wanted my entire life [to have a child].”

With the help of a nutritionist and therapist and her husband, she conquered the demons through her 2019 pregnancy and childbirth.

“Having gone through a whole pregnancy and knowing that I felt confident through the whole thing, I feel like I’ve climbed Everest,” she said.

MORE: Why Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson went 8 years without talking

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!