United States: Dr. Larry Nassar sentenced in sexual abuse case

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to prison on Wednesday for 40 to 175 years in Ingham County, Michigan, United States. Nassar pleaded guilty in November to seven charges of sexual assault in Ingham County, however, he is alleged to have victimized over a hundred girls over several years. Nassar is currently serving a 60-year sentence for federal child pornography charges.

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, presiding over the Ingham County Circuit Court in Lansing, Michigan, handed down the sentence, stating: “I’ve just signed your death warrant.”

Rachael Denhollander first accused Nassar, filing a criminal complaint in 2016. Nassar was charged in Ingham County with seven counts of sexual abuse and pleaded guilty in November of 2017. The true number of victims is alleged to exceed one hundred. During the sentencing hearings in court over 150 women testified Nassar abused them. Alleged victims include famous Olympic gymnasts, such as Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, and Gabby Douglas, although Nassar was not specifically charged with abusing them.

Judge Aquilina read out parts of a statement Nassar submitted to the court. In the statement, Nassar wrote, “I was a good doctor, because my treatments worked and those patients that are now speaking out are the same ones that kept coming back over and over”. He also criticized an earlier judge for going “ballistic”. Aquilina declined to read the entirety, citing concern for the victims; “I don’t want them re-victimized by the words in the letter”, she said.

Nassar served as the team physician for USA Gymnastics for years, spanning four Olympic Games. Simultaneously, he served with Michigan State University. He abused his victims under pretense of treating them as a doctor.

Nassar’s case has led to allegations of lack of oversight by Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics, and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). At USA Gymnastics, prior to the sentencing three board members resigned over the case on Monday, as well as its president last year. Corporate sponsors of the organization also pulled out.

The current president of USA Gymnastics, Kerry Perry, who was appointed in December, released a statement after the sentencing: “During the last seven days, more than 150 courageous women have shared their deeply personal experiences and how Larry Nassar’s despicable crimes impacted their lives. […] USA Gymnastics applauds Judge Rosemarie Aquilina for handing Nassar the maximum sentence of up to 175 years[…] As stated on my first day on Dec. 1, 2017, I will not waver on my commitment to focus each and every day on our organization’s highest priority — the safety, health and well-being of our athletes.”

USOC head Scott Blackmun also released a statement in which he apologized: “The purpose of this message is to tell all of Nassar’s victims and survivors, directly, how incredibly sorry we are. We have said it in other contexts, but we have not been direct enough with you. We are sorry for the pain caused by this terrible man, and sorry that you weren’t afforded a safe opportunity to pursue your sports dreams. The Olympic family is among those that have failed you.”

Both Reuters and the Los Angeles Times noted applause in the courtroom when Nassar was escorted out. Judge Aquilina said, “There has to be a massive investigation as to why there was inaction, why there was silence.”

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