LANSING, Mich. (Meredith/AP) — A Michigan sports doctor has been sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting gymnasts and other young women and girls, capping a remarkable seven-day hearing that brought more than 150 victims or their families to court, including Olympians.
They made riveting statements while confronting Larry Nassar in a Lansing, Michigan, courtroom. He worked at Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.
Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced Nassar on Wednesday. He 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.
Among those testifying on the last day is Rachael Denhollander, who was one of the first women to publicly identify herself as one of Nassar's young victims. Denhollander 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 and also was the national gymnastics squad's doctor.
Victims Confront Nassar
Nassar, 54, eventually pleaded guilty to assaulting seven people in the Lansing area, including Denhollander, but the sentencing hearing has been 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.
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.
The judge is likely to be unsparing in her treatment of Nassar. Aquilina has praised the victims who have appeared in her court since Jan. 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.
"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 former national gymnast, 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."
Nassar has already been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography crimes. He is scheduled to be sentenced next week on more assault convictions in Eaton County, Michigan.
Before his sentencing, former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar made a brief statement, saying he would "carry the words" of his victims with him for the rest of his days.
Here is his full statement:"It's just a short statement.
Your words these past several days -- their words, your words -- have had a significant emotional effect on myself and has shaken me to my core.
I also recognize that what I am feeling pales in comparison to the pain, trauma, and emotional destruction that all of you are feeling.
There are no words that can describe the depth and breadth of how sorry I am for what has occurred. 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."Nassar also has a 60-year prison sentence for child pornography crimes.