A judge sentenced Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics doctor who was accused of molesting scores of young female athletes for decades under the guise of medical treatment, to 40 to 175 years in prison on Wednesday.
“Your decision to assault was precise, calculated, manipulative, devious, despicable,” Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said in her sentencing. “It was my honor and privilege to sentence you, because, sir, you do not deserve to ever walk outside a prison ever again. I’ve just signed your death warrant.”
The ruling followed seven days of painful testimony by women and girls who were abused by Nassar. In the courtroom, the women described years of emotional and psychological trauma after the abuse, which occurred as early as 6 years old, at the hands of the disgraced doctor, whom the prosecutor called possibly “the most prolific serial child sex abuser in history.”
Nassar pleaded guilty to seven counts of of sexual assault in Michigan. In his plea deal, all victims were allowed to give victim impact statements before his sentencing. More than 150 victims and family members have come forward to do so.
After the sentencing, Nassar was given the chance to apologize. “An acceptable apology to all of you is impossible to write and convey,” he said. He choked up and, apparently overwhelmed, repeatedly turned away from his microphone. “I will carry your words to me for the rest of my days.”
“Sir, I hope that’s true,” the judge responded. “I hope you are shaken to your core.” But Aquilina, before issuing the sentence, appeared to reject the possibility that Nassar was truly remorseful when she read from a letter he wrote two months after he pleaded guilty to the charges.
“What I did in the state cases was medical, not sexual,” he had written in the letter. “I was a good doctor because my treatments worked. My patients that are now speaking out are the same ones that praised and came back over and over.
“The media convinced them that everything I did was wrong.”
Many in the room gasped when the judge reached the line that read, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
In the letter, he claimed he only admitted his guilt because he was “manipulated” by the attorney general’s office, and that he had medically treated these women and girls, not assaulted them. “The stories are being fabricated to sensationalize this,” he wrote. He accused the women and girls of seeking media attention and financial reward.
The judge, after reading it, threw down the letter and looked at Nassar. “Would you like to withdraw your plea?” she said.
“Because you are guilty, aren’t you?”
“I’ve said my plea,” he said.
In explaining her sentencing, the judge said she took the victims’ statements and the letter into account. “There’s something I don’t want to understand and I want to make clear,” she said. “You knew you had a problem from a very young age. You could have taken yourself away from temptation. And you did not.
“Based on the numbers that we all know go unreported, I can’t even guess how many vulnerable children and families you actually assaulted,” she said.
“You can’t give them back their innocence, their youth,” she said. “You can’t give a father back his life, or one of your victims, her life when she took it. You can’t return a daughter to her mother, the father to her daughter.”
Wednesday’s ruling also comes a day after the NCAA, the body that regulates college athletics, opened an investigation into the handling of Nassar’s accusations by Michigan State University, where he worked as a doctor for the the women’s gymnastics and crew programs for decades. Women who participated in these programs have accused Michigan State of protecting Nassar, and the former gymnastics coach, Kathie Klages, has been accused of covering up the allegations.
A lawsuit from Maroney has also accused USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympics Committee of turning a blind eye to Nassar’s crimes, and other women have made similar accusations. In the fallout over the accusations, Kellogg’s, Procter & Gamble, and most recently, AT&T, have dropped out as corporate sponsors of USA Gymnastics.
Nassar has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison for federal child pornography charges. He has pleaded guilty to three separate charges of criminal sexual conduct in another county in Michigan and will be sentenced for those charges later.
Wednesday, January 24, 2018, at 2:00 p.m.: This post has been updated to include statements from Nassar and Judge Aquilina.
Also in Slate:
Why We Didn’t Listen To Larry Nassar’s Victims