Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse victims came to the stand one by one. Some steeled their courage and planned to give statements about how the abuse by the former USA Gymnastics doctor affected them. Others, inspired by these first women’s words, reached out to the judge and said they, too, wanted to be heard during the several days allotted for victims’ testimony at Nassar’s sentencing hearing. All told, 156 women provided heartbreaking, emotional statements over seven days.
They had one purpose — to convince Michigan Judge Rosemarie Aquilina that Nassar, who worked with USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, deserved the harshest sentence possible for the criminal sexual conduct charges to which he pleaded guilty last November.
And they succeeded. On Wednesday, Aquilina sentenced Nassar to a minimum of 40 years and maximum of 175 years in prison for sexually abusing athletes and neighbors.
Nassar was already sentenced in December to 60 years in federal prison on child pornography charges, and faces an additional sentencing hearing on more criminal sexual conduct charges in another Michigan county on Jan. 31.
In addressing Nassar, Aquilina said: “I wouldn’t send my dogs to you, sir.”
Before issuing the sentence, Aquilina read parts of a letter Nassar had sent to her two months after he pleaded guilty, defending his actions, The judge made it clear in her intonations that she was not swayed by his arguments.
“I was a good doctor, because my treatments worked,” she read from Nassar’s letter. “And those patients that are now speaking out were the same ones who praised and came back over and over and referred family and friends to see me. The media convinced them that everything I did was wrong and bad. They feel I broke their trust. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. It is just a complete nightmare. Stories are being fabricated to sensationalize this…I was so manipulated by the attorney general and now by Judge Aquilina. And all I wanted was to minimize stress to everyone.”
After reading the excerpts, Aquilina looked straight at Nassar, adding, “This letter tells me you have not yet owned what you did. You still think somehow you are right, you’re a doctor, that you’re entitled so you don’t have to listen. That you did “treatment.” I wouldn’t send my dogs to you sir.”
Facing many of the people who had detailed how his sexual assault had left them broken and questioning themselves, forever changed, Nassar also spoke, saying, “Your words have had a significant emotional effect on myself, and shaken me to my core. I recognize that what I am feeling pales in comparison to the pain, trauma and emotional destruction I caused. No words can describe the depth of how sorry I am for what occurred. I will carry your words with me for the rest of my days.”
Aquilina did everything in her power to ensure that those days will be spent behind bars, including sending a message to the parole board as well. “You do not deserve to walk outside a prison ever again,” she said. “Anywhere you walk destruction will occur to those most vulnerable. I find that you don’t get it. That you’re a danger. You remain a danger. I’m a judge who believes in life and rehabilitation when rehabilitation is possible. I don’t find that’s possible with you. I just signed your death warrant.”
Some victims said they were as young as 6 years old when Nassar began abusing them. He convinced them that the abuse was medical treatment, and since nearly all of the women were athletes who were sent to him by trusted coaches and adults, they believed him. Aquilina also addressed the need to investigate how Nassar’s years of abuse were allowed to continue — many of the victims have sued USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University and the U. S. Olympic Committee for being complicit in not reporting Nassar and not removing him from his positions despite reports of sexual abuse.
Read a partial transcript of the judge’s remarks below.