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'One Voice Can Start a Movement': Larry Nassar Sentenced to 175 Years
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Former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 175 years in prison on Wednesday on seven counts of sexual assault.

Former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced a minimum of 40 years and a maxium of 175 years in prison on Wednesday on seven counts of sexual assault, 16 months after he was first publicly accused of violating young girls under the guise of medical treatment. The sentence came following a week of gripping testimony of more than 156 victims of the doctor who preyed on vulnerable girls and women, whose allegations against him were ignored for decades, in what has been called a turning point in history.

Calling his acts "calculated, devious, and despicable," Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said it was a privilege to sentence Nassar to from 40 to 175 years in prison on the seven counts brought against him in the county.

"I just signed your death warrant," Aquilina told him.

After addressing the shocking number of sexual abuse statistics in the United States, including how few are actually reported, Aquilina said she wonders how many numbers of victims he truly has. Aquilina, an immigrant who came to the United States as the stateless daughter of a Maltese father and German mother, told Nassar that his crimes had cut to the core of the fabric of the community.

Aquilina first shocked the courtroom when she read portions of Nassar's six-page letter from last Thursday. Originally she had read only the portions related to his complaint about the hearing being too mentally stressful for him, but now she revealed that throughout the letter he had complained he was the victim of a witch hunt and in which he again asserted that he was a legitimate doctor who had performed real treatment instead of sexual assault, labeling his victims as ungrateful for everything he had done for them.

"Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," Nassar wrote to Aquilina in his letter accusing the women of "fabricating" stories after being influenced by the media, eliciting gasps and boos from the courtroom. He claimed that his guilty plea was an act of kindness to spare everyone the trouble of a trial but that he was merely being victimized for his possession of child pornography, which he minimized through various excuses.

"Would you like to withdraw your plea?" Aquilina snapped at Nassar, who replied meekly, "No, ma'am." "Because you are guilty, aren't you?"

"It was not medical," continued Aquilina, who reminded Nassar again that her father and brother are doctors. "It was not treatment. There is no medical evidence that was ever brought to support that. There is no treatment here."

Aquilina said she would not release the whole letter because of the hurt it would cause, indicating its contents likely included further insults and absurdities about the woman who brought him down. She added her voice to those demanding a federal investigation into the circumstances that allowed Nassar to evade justice for so long. Nassar's letter claimed he was investigated and "cleared" by the FBI in 2015, a shocking claim that confirms the urgent need for the FBI to itself be investigated.

"There has to be a massive investigation as to why there was inaction, why there was silence," she said. "Justice requires more than what I can do on this bench."

Aquilina sentenced Nassar after three more women delivered gripping victim impact statements and Michigan Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis delivered her closing argument, condemning Nassar for methodically and sadistically abusing young girls and women for his own enjoyment. Povilaitis praised the bravery of the women who came forward and the investigative journalists who shared their stories, but excoriated the system that let Nassar evade justice for decades.

Povilaitis expressed her outrage that it took so much for the women to finally be believed, and that even after the historic sentencing hearing that began last week, streamed live around the world, that people are still scorning the survivors of Nassar's abuse and claiming they are there for money and fame. Nobody should be above suspicion, she said, simply because of their reputations.

"Anyone can be a perpetrator," Povilaitis said. "Anybody can be a serial sexual predator. Anyone can be an abuser."

Povilaitis called Nassar possibly the most prolific child sex offender in history who hid behind his false reputation, and that he was able to groom so many young girls precisely because of the harsh treatment many gymnasts suffered at the hands of their coaches. Povilaitis reminded

Former gymnast-turned-lawyer Rachael Denhollander, the 156th and finally woman to speak against Nassar since the sentencing hearing began last Tuesday, delivered a truly gripping closing statement that struck out at Nassar, Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and even Shannon Smith, one of Nassar's attorneys. Smith had personally attacked Denhollander's early on in the case during a preliminary hearing, accusing Denhollander of lying for fame and fortune. Denhollander criticized so Smith so bitingly that Smith stood up to object, only to be met with a chorus of jeers from the gallery.

Denhollander thanked Aquilina and asked to deliver a sentence that will send a message across the country.

"How much is a little girl worth?" Denhollander asked. "How much is a young woman worth?"

With a skill of a seasoned prosecutor, Denhollander patiently called out MSU, going over each and incident when the university's handling of allegations against Nassar was so clearly botched.

"Was that the right way or the wrong way to handle a report of sexual assault on MSU's campus?" Denhollander asked of the institution that has continued to deny it failed in any way.

Before Denhollander, two more stood up to speak. Sterling Reithman, the first to speak Wednesday morning, shared with the world that the trauma Nassar inflicted upon her still "haunts her every day." Reithman explained that, as a devoted fan of shows like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, she thought she knew what sexual assault was and how to defend herself from violent attackers, until her notions were destroyed by Nassar.

"I never once considered I'd be sexually abused with acupuncture needles in my spine," said Reithman, who added, "I can not blame myself for trusting my physician."

Like nearly every other woman who had spoken before her, Reithman demanded accountability from USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, and also reinforced that the time of apathy in response to sexual assault would no longer be tolerated.

"This army doesn't have a white flag to wave," she said. "We are here to show you MSU, USA Gymnastics and the world that there is no white flag to wave when it comes to protecting young girls."

Kaylee Lorincz, 18, spoke before Denhollander, and shared how Nassar has assaulted her when she was just 11, and how details about her case made her identity clear to everyone who knew her, despite her name not being used. She told Nassar to confess the truth as to who enabled him.

"Look at me," said Lorincz, who was previously known as Victim E. "(Tell us) who knew what and when they knew it."

Povilaitis, her voice wavering with emotion, praised Denhollander repeatedly, as well as the journalists at The Indianapolis Star, who opened the door by their investigation into USA Gymnastics in August 2016. Povilaitis praised MSU Police Chief Jim Dunlap and Det. Andrea Munford, who supported Denhollander and lobbied for charges to be brought against him by Ingham County while Gretchen Whitmer did not move forward.

Whitmer, who has been outspoken against MSU over its handling of Nassar, is a leading candidate for governor of Michigan in the 2018 race. Whitmer, a Democrat, has denied that she refused to prosecute the case against Nassar for assault, despite the fact that she failed to file charges against him. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette launched a state-wide investigation upon the request of Dunlap.

Before Aquilina exposed the contents of his letter, Nassar spoke before the judge. The 54-year-old former doctor, who spent the last week largely avoiding eye contact with the women who came forward, stood by quietly when his lawyers defended themselves and claimed he was a broken man. Speaking quietly, he finally turned around several times during a short statement.

"Your words these past several days, your words, your words, have had a significant emotional effect on myself and have shaken me to my core," he read. "I also recognize that what I am feeling pales in comparison to the pain, trauma, and emotional destruction that all of you are feeling."

In December, Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for charges related to child pornography. He remains to be sentenced next week in Eaton County, Michigan, on three additional charges of sexual assault.

The next fight is for justice, Lorincz said.

"I want answers, and I want accountability," she said.

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Wednesday morning, a pretrial conference was held for the federal civil case Denhollander brought against MSU, USA Gymnastics, Twistars and Nassar. Except for Nassar, who has lost the case already by failing to challenge, the defendants have all filed motions to dismiss on various grounds. As the civil case moves ahead with more than 140 plaintiffs suing, the focus will move to how many claims can stand up as the defendants' challenges. Attorney John Manly, who represents many of the plaintiffs, says he will continue to push move forward with a trial.

Povilaitis said her office is still taking reports in the case and will continue to pursue justice for the survivors. To contact the Michigan Attorney General's office, call (517) 373-1110.

Comments (1)add comment

John Appleseed said:

0
Step one
That's a good start... Now take down USAG, MSU, the USOC and the Karolyis... the coverup is just as bad as the actual crime. This is an avalanche and it's just the beginning. Thank you survivors for brining this to light, your bravery is what we learn in gymnastics. You are truly an army to be reckoned with. #metoo
 
January 24, 2018
Votes: +5

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