A judge has told a former Olympic team doctor he will spend the rest of his life in jail, after nearly 160 of the young women he abused and assaulted delivered agonising statements about how his actions had destroyed their lives.
Judge Rosemarie Aquilina told long-time USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar he would spend up to 175 years in jail, a sentence that added to the 60 year he had already received for child pornography charges.
“You don’t deserve to walk outside a prison again,” Ms Aquilina told Nassar. “You have done nothing to control these urges and wherever you go will be destruction.”
She added: “I have signed your death warrant.”
The sentencing of the former physician, who began serving as the doctor with the national squad in 1996 and was only fired in 2015, was the latest development in one of the worst scandals to hit US sport in decades.
Dozens of young women and girls claimed that senior officials had failed in their duty to protect them and had either not spotted or ignored evidence of Nassar’s actions. In the spring of 2017, the organisation’s president, Steve Penny, resigned amid accusations of negligence, while three current board members resigned earlier this week.
Before the sentence was announced, Nassar apologised to his victims, telling them: “I will carry your words with me for the rest of my days.”
But the judge said she found his words unconvincing and read aloud from a letter Nassar wrote to her in which he claimed he was a “good doctor” who was “manipulated” into pleading guilty.
“It is my honour and privilege to sentence you because you do not deserve to walk outside of a prison ever again,” she told him.
Nassar, 54, pleaded guilty in November to seven counts of first-degree sex assault in Ingham County, as well as three additional charges in Eaton County, where he will be sentenced next week. He was already serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison for child pornography convictions.
As Ms Aquilina spoke, some in the courtroom in Lansing, Michigan, sobbed and wiped at their eyes, although people obeyed the judge’s instruction to remain quiet following her pronouncement.
The last victim to testify on Wednesday, Rachael Denhollander, was the first to come forward publicly with allegations against the celebrated doctor. She reported him to Michigan State University police in 2016 and told her story to the Indianapolis Star, which launched its own investigation that resulted in a series of reports.
Ms Denhollander said Nassar began abusing her in 2000 when she was a 15-year-old gymnast.
“As we were being sexually violated, Larry was sexually aroused by our humiliation,” she said.
Ms Aquilina, who has been praised for the way she supported the victims who had spoken in court, told Ms Denhollander she had “started the tidal wave”.
The judge told her: “You are the bravest person I have ever had in my courtroom.”
The National Collegiate Athletic Association said earlier this week it had opened an investigation into Michigan State’s handling of the case. In her statement on Wednesday, Ms Denhollander criticised the school for failing to adequately investigate complaints against Nassar stretching back years.
Victims and others have criticised USA Gymnastics for ignoring their complaints and have accused the federation of suppressing their accounts in a bid to avoid bad publicity.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies