Sports doctor faces up to 175 years in prison for molesting young athletes

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) – The former sports doctor who admitted molesting some of the nation’s top gymnasts for years was sentenced Wednesday to 40 to 175 years in prison as the judge declared: “I just signed your death warrant.”

The sentence capped a remarkable seven-day hearing in which scores of Larry Nassar’s victims were able to confront him face to face in a Michigan courtroom.

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said Nassar’s “decision to assault was precise, calculated, manipulative, devious, despicable.”

“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 found competitive gymnastics to be a “perfect place” for his crimes because victims saw him as a “god” in the sport, a prosecutor said Wednesday, shortly before the former doctor was to be sentenced for years of molesting Olympic gymnasts and other young women.

“It takes some kind of sick perversion to not only assault a child but to do so with her parent in the room,” prosecutor Angela Povilaitis said. “To do so while a lineup of eager young gymnasts waited.”

She described the “breadth and ripple” of Nassar’s sexual abuse as “nearly infinite.”

“What does it say about our society that victims of sexual abuse have to hide their pain for years when they did nothing wrong? What does it say about our society when victims do come forward … and are treated as liars until proven true?” Povilaitis said.

Nassar turned to the courtroom gallery to make a brief statement, saying that the accounts of more than 150 victims had “shaken me to my core.” He said “no words” can describe how sorry he is for his crimes.

“I will carry your words with me for the rest of my days” he said as many of his accusers wept.

One of the first athletes to accuse Nassar of sexual assault was the last victim to offer statements at his sentencing hearing.

Rachael Denhollander is a Kentucky lawyer who stepped forward in 2016 after the sports’ governing body was accused of mishandling complaints of sexual assault. She said Nassar groped, fondled and penetrated her with his hands when she was a 15-year-old gymnast in Michigan.

Denhollander’s statements to Michigan State University police put the criminal investigation in high gear in 2016.

“You have become a man ruled by selfish and perverted desires,” she told Nassar, who worked at the university and USA Gymnastics, the governing body that also trains Olympians.

Nassar, 54, pleaded guilty to assaulting seven people in the Lansing area, but the sentencing hearing has been open to anyone who said they were a victim. His accusers said he would use his ungloved hands to penetrate them, often without explanation, while they were on a table seeking help for various injuries.

The accusers, many of whom were children, said they trusted Nassar to care for them properly, were in denial about what was happening or were afraid to speak up. He sometimes used a sheet or his body to block the view of any parent in the room.

The women have included Olympians Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber and McKayla Maroney.

Former elite gymnast, Isabell Hutchins, and Mattie Larson, a former national gymnast, talked about how Nassar won their allegiance with candy, Olympic trinkets and encouraging words while they were under constant scrutiny from demanding coaches.

Brooke Hylek, a gymnast who plans to compete in college, heaped scorn on Nassar.

“I cannot believe I ever trusted you, and I will never forgive you,” she said Tuesday. “I’m happy you will be spending the rest of your life in prison. Enjoy hell by the way.”

Nassar has already been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography crimes. He is scheduled to be sentenced next week on more assault convictions in Eaton County, Michigan.

The CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee has announced an independent investigation intended to determine how the sexual abuse by Nassar could have gone on as long as it did.

Scott Blackmun said the third-party investigation will attempt to determine “who knew what and when” when it comes to Nassar.

Blackmun praised the recent resignations of three USA Gymnastics board members, but said all current directors in the organization must also step down.

Blackmun said the U.S. Olympic Committee is “incredibly sorry” and did not ensure that the girls and young women were not given a safe opportunity to pursue their dreams.

Meanwhile Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon announced that she is resigning.

Many of the victims accused the university of mishandling past complaints about Nassar.

In her resignation letter, Simon said as tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable. She acknowledged she was a natural focus of the anger as president.

Simon, who earned her doctorate at Michigan State in 1974, was promoted to school president in 2005.

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