Larry Nassar sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for decades of sexual abuse

Once a world-renowned sports physician treating America's foremost Olympic women gymnasts, Larry Nassar now will spen...

Posted: Jan 25, 2018 6:54 AM
Updated: Jan 25, 2018 6:54 AM

Once a world-renowned sports physician treating America's foremost Olympic women gymnasts, Larry Nassar now will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

The disgraced former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison, a judge announced Wednesday, after more than 150 women and girls said in court that he sexually abused them over the past two decades.

"I've just signed your death warrant," Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said in a Lansing, Michigan, courtroom. "I find that you don't get it, that you're a danger. That you remain a danger."

Nassar had pleaded guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct in Ingham County in Michigan and admitted to using his trusted medical position to assault and molest girls under the guise of medical treatment.

He offered a short statement in court, apologizing and saying that hearing seven days of victim impact statements had shaken him to his core.

"There are no words that can describe the depth and breadth of how sorry I am for what has occurred," Nassar 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."

But before delivering her sentence, Aquilina read aloud a letter Nassar wrote to the court recently in which he defended his medical care, said he was "manipulated" into pleading guilty, and accused the women of lying.

"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. "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."

The letter "tells me you still don't get it," Aquilina said, tossing the letter dismissively.

"I wouldn't send my dogs to you, sir," she added.

'Nearly infinite'

The sentence brings to an end a wrenching seven days of victim impact statements as part of Nassar's plea deal.

A total of 156 victims spoke, recounting similar stories of how they went to Nassar to receive treatment for sports injuries only to be sexually assaulted and told it was a form of treatment.

"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.

Many of the women said that when they spoke up about the treatment, they were ignored or their concerns brushed aside by organizations in power, primarily USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University and the US Olympic Committee.

The final speaker was Rachael Denhollander, the former gymnast who first made Nassar's abuse public in a September 2016 story in the Indy Star. She meticulously laid out the ways that the systems 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.

Nassar sat and listened on the witness stand, sometimes hiding his head in his hands or wiping away tears with a tissue.

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 on January 31.

Between the three sentences, Nassar, 54, will never get out of prison, Aquilina said.

But the judge reminded everyone in the courtroom that the focus of the week-long sentencing hearing was the victims -- or survivors, as many have called themselves. One by one, women and their families came forward to confront Nassar and explain how he used his respected position to molest young, injured girls.

"I think what we've seen over the past week may have been a watershed moment in our country," said attorney John Manly, who represents more than 100 women in civil lawsuits. "(This happened) because these women had the courage to get up and speak."

'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 nearly doubled over the course of the sentencing hearing as more and more women came forward, inspired to speak out by what many called an "army of survivors."

"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."

Judge Aquilina allowed everyone who wished to speak a chance to be heard, and she offered personal responses to each woman in court. Legal experts said her intimate comments were unusual, but Nassar's victims praised Aquilina for doing what so many others had failed to do: listen.

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 has moved slowly and then all at once. 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.

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.

The US Olympic Committee called on the rest of the USA Gymnastics board to step down and said it was considering decertifying USA Gymnastics as a national governing body, according to a statement from USOC CEO Scott Blackmun on Wednesday. The USOC statement also apologized for failing to stop Nassar's abuse and for its inadequate response at his trial.

"The purpose of this message is to tell all of Nassar's victims and survivors, directly, how incredibly sorry we are," Blackmun wrote. "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."

Huntsville/Redstone
Partly Cloudy
57° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 57°
Muscle Shoals
Partly Cloudy
56° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 56°
Huntsville/Madison
Partly Cloudy
56° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 56°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
56° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 56°
Fort Payne
Partly Cloudy
57° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 57°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 498076

Reported Deaths: 10094
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson716711387
Mobile36294737
Madison32616468
Tuscaloosa24340421
Montgomery22739519
Shelby22174218
Baldwin19873289
Lee15039157
Calhoun13832293
Morgan13753254
Etowah13390325
Marshall11448211
Houston10124264
Elmore9483190
Limestone9420138
St. Clair9022227
Cullman8984182
Lauderdale8612214
DeKalb8489175
Talladega7606165
Walker6585259
Jackson6545104
Autauga632492
Blount6236127
Colbert6001121
Coffee5264103
Dale4671107
Russell406933
Franklin399878
Covington3993106
Chilton3898103
Escambia379173
Tallapoosa3622143
Clarke344053
Chambers3431111
Dallas3422142
Pike293373
Marion288695
Lawrence284985
Winston258368
Bibb246160
Geneva240370
Marengo238857
Pickens225457
Barbour213651
Hale212269
Fayette202057
Butler201466
Henry183541
Cherokee178039
Monroe166739
Randolph164840
Washington156836
Macon147745
Crenshaw146255
Clay145954
Cleburne139841
Lamar133733
Lowndes132751
Wilcox122925
Bullock117336
Conecuh107024
Perry106127
Sumter99732
Coosa90224
Greene88532
Choctaw55323
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 779449

Reported Deaths: 11501
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby876181509
Davidson81809871
Knox46250587
Hamilton40539463
Rutherford38563386
Williamson25382204
Sumner21448318
Montgomery17484213
Out of TN1706694
Wilson16510211
Unassigned15772127
Sullivan14431274
Blount14141183
Bradley12996141
Washington12818234
Maury12246163
Sevier12109164
Putnam10635170
Madison10123230
Robertson8997121
Hamblen8063165
Anderson8044158
Greene7309145
Tipton6962103
Coffee6418115
Dickson6256106
Gibson6196141
Cumberland6127122
Carter5990155
McMinn594592
Roane592696
Bedford5816120
Loudon571966
Jefferson5688119
Lawrence557483
Monroe536590
Warren532576
Hawkins527195
Dyer5242101
Franklin475785
Fayette468372
Obion436995
Lincoln415662
Rhea415273
Cocke401295
Cheatham394544
Marshall391956
Campbell381859
Weakley379359
Giles375297
Henderson362273
Carroll349181
White339366
Hardeman338864
Macon337273
Hardin331563
Lauderdale309642
Henry301275
Marion294744
Scott288144
Wayne287630
Overton285557
Claiborne283069
McNairy268353
Hickman266541
DeKalb266151
Haywood264960
Smith256936
Grainger244246
Trousdale239822
Morgan230338
Fentress229544
Johnson217138
Chester202348
Bledsoe201010
Crockett197547
Unicoi181447
Polk177722
Cannon176730
Union173033
Grundy169730
Lake167926
Sequatchie157327
Humphreys154921
Decatur153837
Benton151039
Lewis147425
Meigs126722
Jackson125634
Stewart124025
Clay107130
Houston103632
Perry103527
Moore94516
Van Buren79720
Pickett74623
Hancock49712

Community Events