(CN) – A Michigan judge on Monday sentenced disgraced former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar to 40 to 125 years in prison for sexually abusing young female athletes, capping three days of victims’ statements and adding to the decades of confinement he has already received.
The proceedings in Eaton County Circuit Court in Charlotte, Mich., were the culmination of Nassar’s guilty plea last year to three felony counts of criminal sexual conduct related to molestation of three athletes at the Twistars gym club, run by Olympic coach John Geddert. Nassar assaulted two girls between the ages of 13 and 15 and the third was younger than 13, according to his plea deal.
In total, more than 250 women and girls have come forward to accuse Nassar of molesting them. Directors at USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, where Nassar was a faculty member, have stepped down in response to the scandal.
Dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, Nassar told the court before his sentencing that it was “impossible to convey the depth and breadth of how sorry I am to each and every one involved.”
“The words expressed by everyone that has spoken, including the parents, have impacted me to my inner most soul,” Nassar said, reading from a slip of paper. “With that being said, I understand and acknowledge that it pales in comparison to the pain, trauma and emotions you all feel."
Eaton County Judge Janice Cunningham thanked the victims for coming forward over three days of proceedings in her courtroom, and said the trauma that Nassar had caused them was "incomprehensible." More than 60 women and teenage girls spoke.
"Their stories are not redundant even though many descriptions of the grooming by the defendant are eerily similar,” Cunningham said. "Each voice and each story does make a difference."
Statements in Cunningham’s courtroom have been live streamed on the internet, like the extraordinary proceedings that prompted more than 150 women and girls to come forward last month in Ingham County, where Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in state prison.
During the hearings in Eaton County, survivors claimed Geddert and other coaches used bullying tactics that allowed Nassar to befriend athletes, gain their trust and become their confidants.
Asking Cunningham to hand down the stiffest possible sentence, Michigan Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis said that in Twistars, Nassar "found the perfect place for his master manipulation."
“In gymnastics, you do what you're told. You hide your pain and you hide your injuries. These young girls were constantly under the microscope and always on display. This nice guy doctor thrived at a place like Twistars, where cruel, harsh, mean and abusive coaches were the norm,” Povilaitis said. “Gymnasts at Twistars had to be seen and treated by him. They were told they were so lucky to have him at their gym, cloaked in the prestige of the United States Gymnastics Association and Michigan State University - an Olympic doctor who treated these young girls' heroes.”
Nassar abused the girls under the guise of medical treatment. Though world-renowned and highly regarded in sports, Povilaitis cited one expert who had called his methods “hocus pocus medicine” and said he may have prematurely ended the careers of athletes whose injuries went untreated.
"The defendant not only robbed these children of their innocence but he robbed many of them of their good health. You heard so many heartbreaking stories of unnecessary treatments, misdiagnoses, inaccurate medical treatment, that resulted in lasting and permanent damage. Many of these survivors wonder whether their now lifelong injuries could have been treated,” Povilatis told the court.
On Friday, a father of three girls sexually assaulted by Larry Nassar lunged at the disgraced former sports doctor during the sentencing hearing but was quickly wrestled to the ground by sheriff’s deputies and detained. He was later released without being charged.
This was Nassar’s third and final criminal sentence. The 40 to 125 years handed down by Judge Cunningham adds to decades of confinement already imposed, meaning he will almost certainly die in prison.
Last November, the 54-year-old was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison on child pornography charges.
He was then sentenced to 40 to 175 years in state prison last month in Ingham County on seven counts of criminal sexual conduct charges.
Once a respected physician, Nassar was arrested in November 2016 by Michigan prosecutors and a month later faced federal child pornography charges. The complaints capped an investigation that began after gymnast Rachael Denhollander reported that Nassar had assaulted her when she visited him with back pain in 2000, when she was 15. She came forward after a 2016 Indianapolis Star investigative report into sexual abuse allegations in USA Gymnastics.
Denhollander said Monday that the survivors should now turn their attention to the "institutional dynamics" that allowed Nassar to assault girls for years, noting that many of the victims "wouldn’t be here had the adults and authorities done what they should have done 20 years ago.”
Last Wednesday, it was reported that police in Meridian Township dropped an investigation into Nassar after he gave them a PowerPoint presentation purporting to demonstrate that he was using a legitimate medical technique.
Nassar had massaged 17-year-old Brianne Randall-Gay's breasts and tried to put his fingers in her vagina. Her mother complained to the police department in Ingham County but Nassar deceived them with a presentation that explained he was using a medical technique called "sacrotuberous ligament release." The department decided not to hand the case to prosecutors.
On Saturday, the New York Times reported that between July 2015, when the FBI opened an inquiry into the allegations, and September 2016, when the Indianapolis Star published its findings, at least 40 women and girls had said Nassar molested them.
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