Ex-doctor Larry Nassar gets 40-175 years in jail for sexual assault of scores of young Olympic gymnasts
‘I just signed your death warrant’ judge declares in emotional case
Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics sports doctor who has admitted to abusing the girls under his care was sentenced to 40-175 years in prison on Wednesday as the judge told him: “I just signed your death warrant.”
The sentence capped a remarkable seven-day hearing in which around 150 of Larry Nassar’s victims were able to confront him face to face in a Michigan courtroom.
Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said Nassar’s “decision to assault was precise, calculated, manipulative, devious, despicable.”
“It is my honour and privilege to sentence you,” she said. “You do not deserve to walk outside a prison ever again. You have done nothing to control those urges and anywhere you walk, destruction will occur to those most vulnerable.”
When the hearing ended, the courtroom broke into applause.
The hearing saw more than 150 victims or their families listening in the court, including Olympians.
They made riveting statements while confronting Nassar in the courtroom. He worked at Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.
Nassar had pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting seven females in the Lansing area between 1998 and 2015, but the hearing was open to all of his accusers.
His accusers said he would molest them while they were on a table seeking help for various injuries. Nassar also has a 60-year prison sentence for child pornography crimes.
Nassar has told his sexual assault victims that “no words” can describe how sorry he is for his crimes.
He turned to the courtroom gallery to make a brief statement before his sentencing on Wednesday. He says the testimony of more than 150 victims since last week has “shaken me to my core.”
He said: “I will carry your words with me for the rest of my days” as many of his accusers openly wept.
Defence lawyer Matt Newburg says Nassar’s “soul is broken.”
A prosecutor said Nassar found competitive gymnastics to be a “perfect place” for his crimes because victims saw him as a “god” in the sport.
“It takes some kind of sick perversion to not only assault a child but to do so with her parent in the room,” prosecutor Angela Povilaitis said. “To do so while a line-up of eager young gymnasts waited.”
She described the “breadth and ripple” of Nassar’s sexual abuse as “nearly infinite.”
“What does it say about our society that victims of sexual abuse have to hide their pain for years when they did nothing wrong? What does it say about our society when victims do come forward … and are treated as liars until proven true?” Povilaitis said.
One of the first athletes to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual assault was the last victim to offer a statement at his sentencing hearing.
Rachael Denhollander is a Kentucky lawyer who stepped forward in 2016 after the sports’ governing body was accused of mishandling complaints of sexual assault. She said Nassar groped, fondled and penetrated her with his hands when she was a 15-year-old gymnast in Michigan.
Denhollander’s statements to Michigan State University police put the criminal investigation in high gear in 2016.
“You have become a man ruled by selfish and perverted desires,” she told Nassar, who worked at the university and USA Gymnastics, the governing body that also trains Olympians.
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 on Tuesday.
Aquilina has praised the victims who have appeared in her court since January 16, calling them “sister survivors,” while also assuring them that their perpetrator will pay. The women have included Olympians Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber and McKayla Maroney.
Hutchins and Mattie Larson, a former national gymnast, talked about how Nassar won their allegiance with confectionery, Olympic trinkets and encouraging words while they were under constant scrutiny from 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 on 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 apologise 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: “Thank you.”