Court sentences Larry Nassar to 175 years — it's just a beginning

The former USA Gymnastics doctor and serial rapist will die in jail. Now, attention turns to his enablers

Published January 24, 2018 3:31PM (EST)

Larry Nassar listens to  victim impact statements during his sentencing hearing. (Getty/Scott Olson)
Larry Nassar listens to victim impact statements during his sentencing hearing. (Getty/Scott Olson)

On Wednesday, after seven days of often painful victim testimony against former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, a Michigan court sentenced him to 40 to 175 years in prison after he pled guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct — including molestation. His victims included some of America's top Olympic gymnasts. In total, it is estimated that Nassar physically abused no less than 150 of his patients in a series of assaults that date back to the mid 1990s.

"I just signed your death warrant," presiding judge Rosemarie Aquilina said during sentencing. "It is my honor and privilege to sentence you. You do not deserve to walk outside a prison ever again. You have done nothing to control those urges and anywhere you walk, destruction will occur to those most vulnerable."

Nassar, who pled guilty to molesting only seven of his many alleged victims, made a brief statement to the court, saying that "no words" could convey how sorry he was for his actions. The convicted said the testimonies of the over 150 women who testified against him in the sentencing phase, the convicted had "shaken me to my core." He added, "I will carry your words with me for the rest of my days."


This is in contract to a letter from the convicted written after he accepted a plea deal and read by Judge Aquilina in court Wednesday. In it, Nassar wrote, "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 over and over. The media convinced them that it was wrong and bad."

As Time reported, there were tears in the courtroom during sentencing and Nassar's statements, though applause as well when the judge delivered a term of 25 to 40 years at minimum, 175 years at maximum. In his mid 50s and already sentenced to 60 years in connection with the possession of 37,000 child-pornography images, many of them of his victims, it is highly, highly probable that Nassar will die in state custody.

But this is far from the end of this case. Yes, there may be further charges against Nassar, but attention has already turned to the many organizations and individuals that may have enabled his decades of abusive behavior.

Already, there are many loud calls for a thorough and unsparing investigation of Michigan State University, the institution where Nassar worked and where administrators reportedly knew of allegations against him but appear to have done little or nothing about it. Earlier this week, a victim of Nassar testifying at the trial alleged MSU is still billing her family for sessions during which he molested her. Currently, MSU seems to be circling the wagons around its upper management and president.

Elsewhere, the U.S. Olympic Committee has released a letter demanding that the entire governing board of USA Gymnastics — the official governing organization for the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team that employed Nassar for years — resign to its apparent inaction in the face of mounting allegations against Nassar and, at times, seemingly obfuscating the sharing of or investigation into them.

The letter read in part:

Since October of last year, we have been engaged in direct talks with USAG leadership on this fundamental point. New leadership at the board level is critical and you recently saw three USAG board resignations. Further changes are necessary to help create a culture that fosters safe sport practice, offers athletes strong resources in education and reporting, and ensures the healing of the victims and survivors. This includes a full turnover of leadership from the past, which means that all current USAG directors must resign.

The remaining text of the letter is just as direct and condemning. Already, several members of USA Gymnastics leadership have tenured their resignations.

There is and will be additional fallout tied to the many ways in which leaders in the gymnastic community — leaders both young athletes and parents of young athletes trusted to protect them — enabled Nassar for the sake of collecting championships and gold medals. That will be reported and litigated out over the coming months and years. And there will be other stories of abuse involving other abusers. (Already Texas authorities are investigating reports of misconduct at the Karyoli Ranch training facility — that may not all involve Nassar).

But, as the many testimonies and statements by Nassar's victims show, the most important and difficult work in coping with and processing his crimes and those like him will not come in the courts or newsrooms. It will happen in homes and minds of the people he assaulted and the those who love them.

By Gabriel Bell

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