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Written by Amanda Turner    Wednesday, 31 January 2018 01:41    PDF Print
Canadian Coach Arrested for Sexual Assault
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)



Ontario gymnastics coach Scott McFarlane, 28, has been arrested for sexual assault on a minor, the third Canadian coach accused of sexual misconduct with young girls in the past two months.

A gymnastics coach from Mississauga, Ontario, has been arrested for sexual assault on a minor, the third Canadian coach accused of sexual misconduct with young girls in the past two months.

Scott McFarlane, 28, turned himself in on Sunday, three days after a Canada-wide arrest warrant was issued for him, regional police reported on Tuesday.

The Peel Regional Police said that a 15-year-old girl contacted law enforcement in early January to allege that her gymnastics coach had engaged in sexual activity with her over a four-year period.

McFarlane appeared in court on Monday and was charged one count each of sexual assault, sexual interference, luring a child under 16, making sexually explicit material available to a child under 16 and indecent exposure to a child. He was released on bail.

McFarlane coached for four years at Manjak's Gym in Mississauga until he was terminated last October. His dismissal was related to his social media activity, owner Kelly Manjak told CBC Toronto.

McFarlane was a provincial-level gymnast in Ontario, where he trained at Tumblers Gymnastics Centre in Orleans. He finished 25th all-around in the Open category at the 2012 Canadian Gymnastics Championships in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Manjak said that when he hired McFarlane, he provided references and a police background check. McFarlane had also worked in Ottawa and Oakville. Gymnastics BC stated that McFarlane had coached at summer camps in British Columbia.

"At Manjak's, we're devastated," said Manjak, who said he has not seen McFarlane since October. "Today I got the news myself... so it definitely affects us and my heart goes out to the victim."

Manjak was the coach of Olympic champion Kyle Shewfelt, who last week called for major overhauls in Canadian sports to protect athletes from sexual predators.

"Our policies in our club are going to tighten up, obviously," Manjak told CBC Toronto. "Hopefully we can continue to eliminate this kind of situation in our sport."

McFarlane has been suspended indefinitely by both Gymnastics Ontario and Gymnastics Canada.

Gymnastics Ontario CEO Dave Sandford said Tuesday that Gymnastics Ontario was aware of a previous allegation against McFarlane, and in October the provincial federation suspended McFarlane for three months. Sandford said he was not able to discuss any other details of the first allegation, per the federation's policies.

In a statement, Gymnastics Canada Chairman Richard Crépin offered support for the gymnast who made the accusation again McFarlane.

"Our hearts go out to the victim in this case," Crépin said, "and we want her, and the rest of our community to know that we will not rest until this type of behaviour no longer finds a home in the sport of gymnastics."

In the spring of 2017, Gymnastics Canada began an overhaul of its policies in the wake of the ongoing sexual abuse scandal at USA Gymnastics that has stunned the gymnastics world. In a two month-span, McFarlane is the third coach suspended by Gymnastics Canada for sexual misconduct following Michel Arsenault and Canadian women's national coach Dave Brubaker in December.

In early December, Arsenault was accused of sexually abusing three former gymnasts in the 1980s and '90s in Quebec. Arsenault was suspended by Gymnastics Canada but not charged with any crimes. However, last week, the Sûreté du Québec announced it was actively investigating an unidentified gymnastics coach after seven women came forward to file complaints alleging sexual assault in the early 1990s, when they were then between 7 to 20 years old. Radio-Canada Sports confirmed the individual being investigated was Arsenault, who left Quebec in 1994 and settled in Edmonton, Alberta.

In mid-December, Brubaker was arrested and charged with 10 offenses relating to sexual misconduct with a minor in Sarnia, Ontario. A publication ban has been placed on the case to protect the identity of the individual making the accusation. Brubaker was released on bail and is due in court on February 6.

"Gymnastics Canada has a zero-tolerance policy for any type of behaviour that puts the safety and well-being of our participants at risk," Crépin said. "More than words though, it's actions that count. Our top priority is building a safe environment for our participants by enhancing the policies and mechanisms we have in place so that our athletes and coaches are safe and secure and so parents feel confident that their children are safe. We are also working in close collaboration with our provincial partners to develop updated policies and to ensure alignment in key areas such as background screening, conduct, and the development of a safe sport framework that will focus on policies, procedures, education, and alignment throughout the system."

The Peel Regional Police, which covers the municipalities of Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga, has asked anyone with information to come forward and stated they are looking for other alleged victims.

Anyone with information in relation to this incident is asked to contact investigators at the Special Victims Unit at 905-453-2121, ext. 3460. Anonymous information may also be submitted by calling Peel Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), by visiting www.peelcrimestoppers.ca or by sending a text message to CRIMES (274637) with the word "PEEL" and then your tip.

 
Written by Amanda Turner    Tuesday, 30 January 2018 14:27    PDF Print
57 Survivors to Confront Nassar at Second Sentencing Hearing
(1 vote, average 5.00 out of 5)



Disgraced former doctor Larry Nassar will face a second sentencing hearing on Wednesday in Eaton County, Michigan, where 57 survivors are expected to deliver victim impact statements, joining the 156 who spoke in the historic hearing January 16-24 in neighboring Ingham County.

Disgraced former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar will face a second sentencing hearing on Wednesday in Eaton County, Michigan, where 57 survivors are expected to deliver victim impact statements, following the 156 who spoke in the historic hearing January 16-24 in neighboring Ingham County.

It is unknown if the 57 returning allowed to speak a second time, as it appears the court will allow. Tuesday's announcement by the Michigan Attorney General's Office could bring the total to 213 survivors coming forward to speak publicly by the shocking sexual abuse they suffered from Nassar, a once-respected USA Gymnastics and U.S. Olympic team doctor who worked as a team physician and associate professor at Michigan State University. The heartbreaking testimonies in the Ingham County case shocked the world, galvanized an already surging #MeToo movement, and has launched multiple investigations into the institutions that have been accused of ignoring and enabling the now-convicted pedophile. MSU President Lou Anna Simons and the entire board of USA Gymnastics have been forced to resign.

On January 24, Judge Rosemarie E. Aquilina sentenced Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison, above the prosecutor's recommendation of 40 to 125 years in prison. Nassar must serve the sentence after he completes his federal sentence of 60 years on three charges related to child pornography, an unlikely circumstance for the 54-year-old former physician. Nassar is appealing both sentences.

In sentencing Nassar, Judge Aquilina referenced a letter she had obtained from the Ingham County Sheriff late on the second day of the hearing. She revealed a few lines of the letter on the third day of the hearing, revealing that he wrote complaints that he found it too mentally taxing to listen to so many of his victims and that the judge was turning the sentencing into a media circus to seek attention for herself. He later delivered a short apology in which he claimed he was truly broken up by the impact statements. When she sentenced him, however, she revealed more of the letter, in which, despite his professed apology and, he again claimed that he was a legitimate, respected doctor and that all his former patients had been brainwashed by the media into believing he had assaulted them, and that he had only pleaded guilty.

"I was a good doctor, because my treatments worked and those patients that are now speaking out were the same ones that praised and came back," Nassar wrote. "Now they are seeking the media attention and financial reward."

When Aquilina asked him if he would like to withdraw his guilty plea and plead not guilty, he declined.

Led by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, the Attorney General's Office investigated and prosecuted Nassar with the help of the Michigan State University Police Department, and initially charged Nassar with 22 felonies on November 22, 2016. After a year of maintaining his innocence, Nassar agreed to plead guilty to seven charges of criminal sexual conduct on November 22, 2016, in Ingham County, home to the MSU campus. A week later he pleaded guilty to three more counts in Eaton County, related to sexual assaults of minors between 2009 and 2011 at Gedderts' Twistars club in Dimondale. As part the plea agreement with the state, Nassar agreed to open sentencing hearings in which any victim who had filed a complaint against him with the Michigan authorities could deliver a victim impact statements.

Eaton County Circuit Court Judge Janice Cunningham will preside over the hearing, which is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Court will be closed Thursday but the hearing is expected to continue Friday and into next week if necessary, the Attorney General's office stated. As in Ingham County, the prosecutor has requested a minimum sentence of 40 years to a maximum of 125 years.

Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis will again prosecute the case. In her sentencing memo to Judge Cunningham, she noted the devastation Nassar's has caused and his lack of remorse.

"As one victim so eloquently stated, society sometimes sees one victim as a tragedy, but a hundred victims as a statistic," she wrote. "What the Court will see and hear is the destruction this Defendant's criminal actions have wrought in the victims' lives, their families' lives, and in the community at large. As evidenced from his self-serving statement at the plea hearing in Ingham County and the letter he wrote and that was read by Judge Aquilina during his Ingham County sentencing hearing, defendant has shown no remorse for his acts or the pain and destruction they have caused."

Povilaitis noted in her closing argument on January 24 that Nassar's fate lies in the hands of women. Povilaitis' team consists of three female prosecutors, and both judges in Michigan, as well as the federal judge, are all female.

"The fact that the women led the investigation, the prosecution team and that three female judges now sentence defendant Nassar is poetic justice," she said.

 
Written by Amanda Turner    Tuesday, 30 January 2018 12:30    PDF Print
Texas Governor Requests Criminal Investigation into Karolyi Ranch
(9 votes, average 3.89 out of 5)



Texas Governor Greg Abbott formally requested a "full and thorough investigation" on Tuesday into the allegations of sexual abuse at the Karolyi ranch, the former U.S. national gymnastics training center where former team doctor Larry Nassar sexually assaulted an unknown number of gymnasts.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott formally requested a "full and thorough investigation" on Tuesday into the allegations of sexual abuse at the Karolyi ranch, the former U.S. national gymnastics training center owned by Bela and Marta Karolyi where former team doctor Larry Nassar sexually assaulted an unknown number of gymnasts.

After statements by 156 survivors of his sexual abuse, nearly all committed under the guise of medical treatment, Nassar was sentenced from 40 to 175 years in prison last Wednesday in Ingham County, Michigan, the location of Michigan State University and Geddert's Twistar's Gymnastics club. He faces a second sentencing Wednesday in Eaton County, Michigan, for three additional charges related to sexual assaults of a child at his former home in Holt.

Calling the statements made by the athletes who trained at the ranch gut-wrenching, Gov. Abbott sent a letter to Col. Steven C. McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, requesting that the Texas state police force, known as the Texas Rangers, open an immediate investigation.

"The recent, shocking allegations of sexual assault of athletes at the Karolyi Ranch in Walker County are deeply disturbing and demand thorough and swift justice," Gov. Abbott wrote.

The Walker County Sheriff's Office is actively investigating the allegations at the ranch, which is situated in the Sam Houston National Forest near New Waverly, Texas.

The statements of the survivors shocked the world as each described a manipulative doctor who took advantage of vulnerable young girls whose lives were severely damaged by his depravity. Nearly all accused institutions and individuals of enabling Nassar or ignoring his abuse, including accusations against coaches of creating physical and psychologically abusive training conditions that allowed Nassar to groom his victims by sneaking them food and offering emotional support as a ploy. In heartbreaking testimony on January 23, Mattie Larson, a 2010 world team member, broke down as she described injuring herself to avoid attending the monthly national team camp at the ranch, which she compared to a prison. He pleaded guilty in November 2017, one year after he was first arrested and 14 months after The Indianapolis Star reported the story of Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual assault. Its September 12, 2016, article also included the news that a 2000 Olympian (later identified as Jamie Dantzscher) had filed a Jane Doe lawsuit against Nassar and USA Gymnastics in California, and that a third former gymnast, (later revealed to be former rhythmic national champion Jessica Howard) had also contacted the newspaper to report being assaulted by Nassar.

The Karolyi ranch, originally established as a summer camp by the Hungarian-Romanian coaching couple, had served as the U.S. national team training center for the women's artistic gymnastics team since 2001. Designated an official United States Olympic Training Center, the ranch was later expanded to add training facilities for rhythmic gymnastics and trampoline and tumbling. USA Gymnastics leased the facility from the Karolyis.

In June 2015, coach Sara Jantzi overheard her gymnast, Maggie Nichols, discussing Nassar's "treatments" with Aly Raisman and a third gymnast. Alarmed, she confirmed that Nassar's treatments included vaginal penetration of the gymnasts that he claimed was a legitimate medical act to help injuries. She reported him to USA Gymnastics and Maggie's mother, Gina. USA Gymnastics claims it reported Nassar to the FBI in July 2015, five weeks after Nichols' report. Nassar left USA Gymnastics in September 2015, announcing he was retiring.

In July 2016, USA Gymnastics' then-President/CEO Steve Penny announced it was purchasing the ranch, despite knowledge of the sexual abuse that had occurred there. After allegations against Nassar became public, USA Gymnastics announced it would not finalize the purchase of the ranch. However, the organization failed to take any solid action to end its relationship with the ranch or find an alternative training center until January 18, several days into Nassar's sentencing hearing, when it announced it had abruptly terminated the lease with the ranch, which finally occurred only after massive public backlash. A developmental camp, the second of the year, was in process at the time of the announcement.

On January 16, the day before Nassar's sentencing hearing began, four-time Olympic champion Simone Biles came forward and revealed for the first time that she too had been abused by Nassar, and was traumatized at having to return there. The first senior national training camp was scheduled to begin January 22.

"It breaks my heart even more to think that as I work toward my dream of competing in Tokyo 2020, I will have to continually return to the same training facility where I was abused," Biles wrote in her statement posted to social media.

Nassar, who began working with USA Gymnastics in 1986 as an athletic trainer, became the national medical coordinator in 1996, three years after qualifying as a doctor of osteopathy in Michigan. He was never licensed to practice clinical medicine in Texas, which means each day he practiced medicine at the ranch, where his duties included diagnosing and treating injuries and overseeing medication, was a felony in the third degree. Harming someone while practicing medicine without a license in Texas is an additional felony in the third degree. Counting the first-degree felonies of sexual assault, it is probable that Nassar committed thousands of felonies at the ranch.

In sentencing Nassar on January 24, Judge Rosemarie E. Aquilina requested a "massive" investigation into how Nassar was able to freely assault so many girls and women over a 25-year period.

Letter from Texas Governor Greg Abbott

January 30, 2018
Colonel Steven C. McCraw
Director, Texas Department of Public Safety
P.O. Box 4087 Austin, Texas 78773-0001

Dear Director McCraw:

The recent, shocking allegations of sexual assault of athletes at the Karolyi Ranch in Walker County are deeply disturbing and demand thorough and swift justice. I understand that the Walker County Sheriff's Office is actively investigating the allegations, and I commend that office for its diligence in the matter.

Considering that criminal action has been implicated across multiple jurisdictions and states, it is essential that the Texas Rangers work with the Walker County Sheriff's Office to comprehensively investigate all potential criminal conduct.

The public statements made by athletes who previously trained at the Karolyi Ranch are gut-wrenching. Those athletes, as well as all Texans, deserve to know that no stone is left unturned to ensure that the allegations are thoroughly vetted and the perpetrators and enablers of any such misconduct are brought to justice. The people of Texas demand, and the victims deserve, nothing less.

Therefore, I request that the Texas Rangers initiate a full and thorough investigation into the alleged sexual misconduct at the Karolyi Ranch. The Rangers' reputation as the state's preeminent law enforcement agency is well known, and I have no doubt that they, together with the Walker County Sheriff's Office, will provide the resources and expertise needed for a successful investigation.

Sincerely,

Greg Abbott
Governor

 
Written by Amanda Turner    Sunday, 28 January 2018 07:17    PDF Print
Óðinsdóttir Thankful For Support After Revealing 2016 Rape
(8 votes, average 4.25 out of 5)



Icelandic gymnast Tinna Óðinsdóttir told IG she has been "shocked" by the outpouring of support she has received since her allegation this past week that she had been raped by a foreign gymnast at an international competition held in November 2016 in Germany.

Icelandic gymnast Tinna Óðinsdóttir told IG she has been "shocked" by the outpouring of support she has received since her allegation this past week that she had been raped by a foreign gymnast at an international competition held in November 2016 in Germany.

"I got so many nice messages, so I'm so thankful for that," Óðinsdóttir told IG on Sunday. "I knew that I had many people around me that cared about me but not that many! So even during hard times like that, I have never felt so loved."

Óðinsdóttir said she was inspired to tell her story by the #MeToo movement in hope to encourage other survivors of sexual assault.

Óðinsdóttir has represented Iceland at several international competitions, including world and European championships, and helped Iceland win the women's team competition for the first time at the 2016 Nordic Cup.

On January 23, Icelandic media site Nútíminn first shared her story. She told IG that she received more interview requests, but agreed to one televised interview with RÚV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.

"I find it hard to say this," she told Nútíminn of coming forward. "But we should not be ashamed of this. This was not my fault. And this is not our fault. I think it's OK to see people say and read that it's a reality that this happens."

Óðinsdóttir, who turned 23 on November 3, said is considering filing police reports in Germany and in the country where the gymnast resides. Óðinsdóttir said the Icelandic Gymnastics Federation (FSÍ), only recently notified of the incident, has been very supportive.

"We will support her in the steps she decides to take next," FSÍ chairman Arnar Ólafsson, told RÚV.

Óðinsdóttir did not identify the individual she said assaulted her or the precise competition where she said it occurred, but she competed at the FIG World Cup event held in Cottbus, Germany, in November 2016, where she was pleased with her seventh place on floor exercise, her second World Cup final.

"Of course, I had no idea that my life would change permanently," she told Nútíminn.

Óðinsdóttir said she was assaulted at a hotel following the conclusion of the meet.


Tinna Óðinsdóttir (Iceland) at the 2016 Turnier der Meister, an FIG World Cup in Cottbus, Germany, where she finished seventh in the floor final

"After the competition, I was with my friends and was having fun," Óðinsdóttir said. "This was the last competition of the season, and we went to a fun place with all the competitors at the event. It was really fun, and there were guys from another country with us who invited the girls to go back to a hotel when the entertainment center was closing."

The gymnast said they were having fun at the hotel but things changed once people began leaving, and it was just two females alone with the three male gymnasts.

"My friend and I were chatting at the hotel, but all of a sudden, the atmosphere changed and everything was different," she said. "We obviously noticed this and looked at each other and wanted to get away, but that was when it all started."

Óðinsdóttir said in her interview that it was at that moment when a gymnast from another country began trying to kiss her, and her friend fled the room in fear. Two men held her down while a third raped her, despite her repeatedly telling them to stop. A simple "no" should have been sufficient, she said.

"It's supposed to be enough," she said. "They realized what they were doing. I became completely weak and I realized that I was not going to get any (help) soon."

Óðinsdóttir described what happened next as an out-of-body experience in which all her strength had disappeared. This is a paralysis known as tonic immobility, commonly reported in survivors of sexual assault, and is part of the body's normal "fight or flight" instinct.(According to a 2017 Swedish study of 278 sexual assault survivors done over a two-year period, 70 percent reported "significant" immobility during the assault, and 48 percent experienced "extreme" immobility. Sexual assault survivors who suffered tonic immobility were also more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, according to the study, as they felt more blame and anger directed toward themselves for not fighting back harder.

"It was like my brain blocked everything out," she said. "I went somehow out of my body and watched this happen. I simply do not remember how long it took. I was trying to think of something else — stare straight ahead."

Óðinsdóttir said when it was over, she was tossed out of the room and into the elevator, and described feeling numb as she walked back to her hotel. Though she represents the Fimleikafélagið Björk club in Hafnarfjörður, she was then training at a Danish club in Aarhus with Dutch coach Rene Poutsma. She flew back to Aarhus the next day while the majority of the Icelandic team continued to Reykjavík. She did not initially tell her boyfriend, who picked her up at the airport in Denmark, or her parents at home. She described herself as devastated and unable to open up about what happened.

"I didn't understand anyone," she said. "It's usually very easy to express myself, yet I was isolated and kept these feelings deep inside me. The days passed and I became more and more deceitful, and somehow, I was the same on the outside about everything and everyone. I fell ill around my family and friends and began to lie about pointless things. I was so smooth, yet, at the same time, I was nothing at all like me. I felt so empty. I had no emotion and didn't care about anything."

Óðinsdóttir said that she was unable to concentrate anymore and eventually returned to Iceland. Six months after the competition in Germany, she told her parents about what had happened, and from that moment began to receive the support she needed to begin healing.

"The reason I told them about this so late wasn't because I was afraid of the reaction or that they would judge me or anything like that, but simply because I was trying to spare them," she said. "I didn't want to make them feel bad for me and I didn't want to make me feel sorry or let people see me like some kind of victim. And this characterizes me a bit as a person. I don't want people to worry about me and I don't want to be the reason why somebody feels bad."

Though she received immediate support from her family, Óðinsdóttir felt judgment from others, and she still has to answer the same questions, such as, "Are you completely 100 percent sure you said no?", "Why didn't you scream?" and "Why didn't you go down to the lobby and report it immediately?"

"I said 'no' and that's more than enough," she explained. "I didn't scream because I was too scared. I wanted to leave as soon as possible. And when it was done and I walked to my hotel, there was nothing happening in my head. I was nothing. I walked like a ghost. I was a foreigner in Germany, and I didn't know what to do or where to go. I couldn't even cry. I was in so much shock and I was completely empty. I walked the streets at night and was completely lost."

Óðinsdóttir said that as more people in her circle were told of her allegation, she realized who her true friends are.

"It surprised me who disappeared, and today I have fewer but much better friends," she said. "People may think that you just 'get over' this, but it's not that easy. You learn to live with this, but it follows you forever. Time heals all wounds — but not memories."

She also said she is grateful for the support she received immediately from FSÍ.

"They were there for me, encouraged me to step forward and wanted to assist me if I wanted to press charges," she said.

Óðinsdóttir told IG that she will be getting additional support from her coach, who will be moving from Aarhus to Iceland next month. She also told Icelandic media that she is a stronger person today because of what she has survived, crediting her mother, Alda Erlingsdóttir, especially.

"I am so grateful for the person I am today and that is largely because of my mother's influence," she said. "She is undoubtedly the strongest woman I know. I've always looked at her as a role model and I'll feel that way forever. I've come so far and I didn't believe I could get to this place where I am today. I made the decision to use this trauma as an opportunity and look at it as an experience. I am a different person today, and I have grown immensely at this time. This happened and I can't undo it, but I can use my experience to help others. The memory lives with you and you learn a lot to deal with trauma like this."

Óðinsdóttir is the second gymnast to come forward since the #MeToo movement began last fall. In mid-October, 1992 Olympic champion Tatiana Gutsu of Ukraine accused fellow Olympic champion Vitaly Scherbo (Belarus) of acquaintance rape at a Stuttgart hotel during the 1991 DTB Cup.

Not only has the #MeToo movement hit Iceland, with thousands of Icelandic women sharing stories of their own sexual assaults and taking part in marches, but so has the news of sexual abuse of athletes, most notably in the Larry Nassar tragedy in American gymnastics. Óðinsdóttir said she is grateful for all the survivors who have spoken out and continue to call for changes in sport and society.

"It's so important that the debate does not stop and the revolution does not die out," she said.


For 24/7 assistance for survivors of sexual assault, visit RAINN in the United States, Rape Crisis UK, Rape Crisis Network Europe, and Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia.
 
Written by Amanda Turner    Wednesday, 24 January 2018 10:59    PDF Print
'One Voice Can Start a Movement': Larry Nassar Sentenced to 175 Years
(9 votes, average 3.78 out of 5)



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.

 


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