Former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar has been sentenced to up to 175 years in prison, a judge announced Wednesday after hearing statements from more than 150 women and girls who said he sexually abused them over the past two decades.
“I’ve just signed your death warrant,” Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said. “I find that you don’t get it, that you’re a danger. That you remain a danger.”
Larry Nassar defended his medical practices and accused the women who said he sexually abused them of lying for media attention and financial reward, according to a letter he wrote to the court last week.
“I was a good doctor because my treatments worked, and those patients that are now speaking out are the same ones that praised and came back over and over,” Nassar wrote in the letter. “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 scorned.”
Judge Rosemarie Aquilina read aloud parts of the letter in court during his sentencing.
Former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar addressed the court in Lansing, Michigan, Wednesday before the judge announced his sentence on charges of sexual misconduct.
Nassar apologized in a brief statement, turning around to directly address the victims and saying that the comments “have shaken me to my core.”
“There are no words that can describe the depth and breadth of how sorry I am for what has occurred,” he said. “An acceptable apology to all of you is impossible to write and convey. I will carry your words with me for the rest of my days.”
How much is a little girl worth? How much is a young woman worth?
Those were the powerful questions posed by former gymnast Rachael Denhollander at Larry Nassar’s criminal sentencing hearing on Wednesday. And they are now questions that Judge Rosemarie Aquilina must consider as she prepares to sentence the former USA Gymnastics doctor.
Over the course of seven full days, Denhollander and other victims of Nassar approached the podium in the courtroom in Lansing, Michigan, and faced the man they said sexually assaulted and abused them under the guise of providing medical care over more than two decades.
“The breadth and ripple of this defendant’s abuse and destruction is nearly infinite,” Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis said in her remarks before the sentencing.
She called on the judge to sentence Nassar to a minimum of 40 years in prison and at least 125 years, calling him “possibly the most prolific child sexual abuser in history.”
In all, 168 impact statements were read, including 156 from victims themselves.
“We were ultimately strong enough to take you down,” Kaylee Lorincz said on Wednesday. “Not one by one, but by an army of survivors. We are Jane Does no more.”
Nassar has sat and listened on the witness stand, sometimes hiding his head in his hands or wiping away tears with a tissue. He may choose to speak on his own behalf, as he did in a previous hearing on separate charges, but it likely won’t affect Aquilina’s decision. She’s expected to sentence him with a lengthy prison term later on Wednesday.
Nassar, once a renowned doctor, pleaded guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct in Ingham County in Michigan.
Separately, he has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison for federal child pornography charges. He also has pleaded guilty to three charges of criminal sexual conduct in Eaton County in Michigan and is due to be sentenced on those charges after this case.
Between those three sentences, Nassar, 54, will never get out of prison, Aquilina has said in court.
“He’s not coming out between the three sentences that he will get. So you shouldn’t be scared anymore,” Aquilina told a victim last week.
Rather, the focus of the week-long sentencing has been on the victims — or survivors, as they have also been called. One by one, women and their families have come forward to explain how Nassar used his respected position to molest young injured girls seeking medical treatment.
‘We have our voices’
The women — almost all of whom initially met Nassar for a sports-related injury — said that, because of the abuse, they struggled with anxiety, depression and instances of self-harm. Others said they no longer trust doctors or that they shrink from any physical touch.
“Sexual abuse is so much more than a disturbing physical act,” Kyle Stephens, the first victim to speak, said last week. “It changes the trajectory of a victim’s life, and that is something that nobody has the right to do.”
But the women also showed remarkable resolve and bravery, staring down Nassar in court and calling out the systems of power that protected him for more than two decades. The victims include some of the most famous Olympic gymnasts in American history, including gold medalist Aly Raisman, as well as athletes at Michigan State University and at USA Gymnastics.
“We, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time, are now a force, and you are nothing,” Raisman said. “The tables have turned, Larry. We are here. We have our voices, and we are not going anywhere.”
Court officials initially expected 88 victims to speak in court. But that number has nearly doubled over the course of the sentencing hearing as more and more women came forward, inspired to speak out by what Raisman termed an “army of survivors.”
The final speaker was Denhollander, the victim who first made Nassar’s abuse public in a September 2016 story in the Indy Star. She meticulously laid out the ways that Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics and US Olympic Committee failed her and other women and allowed this abuse to continue for so long.
“Women and girls banded together to fight for themselves because no one else would do it,” she said.
Fallout only beginning
Though the sentencing marks the end of Nassar’s time in the public eye, it has focused critical attention on USA Gymnastics, the US Olympic Committee and Michigan State University, the institutions that employed Nassar for about two decades. A number of women have accused the organizations of turning a blind eye to Nassar’s abuse and even pressuring outspoken victims into silence.
“Michigan State University, the school I loved and trusted, had the audacity to tell me that I did not understand the difference between sexual assault and a medical procedure,” Amanda Thomashow said in court. “That master manipulator took advantage of his title, he abused me, and when I found the strength to talk about what had happened I was ignored and my voice was silenced.”
All three organizations have denied wrongdoing and said they reported the sexual abuse allegations to authorities once they learned about them.
Still, the fallout at those organizations moved slowly and then all at once. In the past week, USA Gymnastics cut ties with the Karolyi Ranch, the training facility where the abuse happened, and three leaders of its board stepped down under pressure.
Michigan State University asked the state attorney general to investigate its response to the abuse, and President Lou Anna Simon has faced calls for her resignation.