‘I just signed your death warrant’: Judge sentences Larry Nassar up to 175 years for sex crimes

BREAKING UPDATE

Former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison Wednesday following seven full days of victim impact statements. At one point during the sentencing hearing Judge Rosemarie Aquilina told Nassar, “I just signed your death warrant.”

On Wednesday afternoon,  USA Gymnastics released their statement regarding Nassar’s sentence:

“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. I am profoundly saddened that a single woman, a single girl, a single athlete was hurt. USA Gymnastics applauds Judge Rosemarie Aquilina for handing Nassar the maximum sentence of up to 175 years, in an effort to bring justice to those he abused and punish him for his horrific behavior.

“The powerful voices and strength of these survivors have left a lasting impression on all of us. Every day, their stories will impact my decisions as president and CEO.

“As stated on my first day on Dec. 1, 2017, I will not waiver on my commitment to focus each and every day on our organization’s highest priority – the safety, health and well-being of our athletes. We will create a culture that empowers and supports them. Our commitment is uncompromising, and it is my hope that everything we do going forward makes this very clear.”

PREVIOUS STORY

LANSING, Mich. – How much is a little girl worth? How much is a young woman worth?

Those were the powerful questions posed by 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.

In all, 169 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.

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.

“We, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time, are now a force, and you are nothing,” Olympic gymnast Aly 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 the systems of power 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.

Beyond Nassar

But the scandal reverberates far beyond Nassar, the once respected doctor who enjoyed a prestigious perch as an associate professor at the Michigan State University from 1997 to 2016 and also worked as the gymnastics team doctor through four Olympic Games. Scores of women said they were abused and then pressured into silence by powerful institutions that protected him and enabled him for decades.

USA Gymnastics and Michigan State have separately said they reported Nassar’s abuse immediately when they learned about it, but a number of victims said they told authorities about the abuse years ago and were ignored.

In the fallout, USA Gymnastics cut ties with the Karolyi Ranch, the women’s gymnastics training facility where gymnasts said abuse went unchecked. Several board members of USA Gymnastics resigned.

Prominent Olympians including Simone BilesAly RaismanGabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney, have said they were abused by Nassar. Raisman accused USA Gymnastics of “rotting from the inside” and called on its new leader to take responsibility.

Michigan State University’s leadership also has been under fire, with a protest planned Friday demanding the resignation of its president Lou Anna K. Simon. Nassar had served as the gymnastics and women’s crew team physician at the university.

“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,” survivor Amanda Thomashow said last week.

Michigan State maintains no official believed Nassar committed sexual abuse until newspapers began reporting on the allegations during the summer of 2016. Any suggestion that the university engaged in a cover-up is “simply false,” an MSU statement asserted last week.

Their statements

Since last Tuesday, survivors have recounted painful experiences in front of Nassar, who wore a prison uniform and looked away.

One after another, women have recounted damning accounts of how he abused them. Some appeared in person and others recorded their statements.

A number of victims said they suffered from self-doubt, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Some said they or their loved ones harmed themselves because of Nassar’s abuse.