Disgraced former USA Gymnastics physician, Larry Nassar will spend the rest of his life behind bars, convicted of sexually assaulting more than 160 young female gymnasts in his care.
Judge, Rosemarie Aquilina was emphatic in her sentencing decision, setting the minimum prison term at 40 years. “It is my honour and privilege to sentence you because you do not deserve to walk outside of a prison ever again,” she told Nassar.
Following days of harrowing testimonies in the Michigan courtroom, Nassar issued an apology to the victims of his crimes.
“Your words have had a significant emotional effect to myself and shaken me to my core. … An acceptable apology to all of you is impossible to write or say,” he said. “I will carry your words with me for the rest of my days.”
His words were quickly discredited as ‘insincere’ by Aquilina, who said Nassar’s past behaviour and excuses revealed his true feelings. To emphasise this, Aquilina read aloud a letter which Nassar had written following his guilty plea. In it, the former physician claimed that victim testimonies were ‘fabricated’, and were fuelled by the desire for money and fame. He also alleged his actions were medical not sexual.
“This letter tells me you still do not own what you did,” Aquilina said. “I wouldn’t send my dogs to you, sir.”
Over the past two weeks of Nassar’s sentencing more than 160 of his victims have spoken out about the abuse they were subjected to.
Olympic gold medallists Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney also issued personal accounts of abuse at the hands of Nassar. Biles’ account which she issued as a #MeToo post last week on Twitter, was heartbreaking and shed light on the fear and shame victims struggled with.
“For too long I have asked myself, ‘Was I too naive? Was it my fault?’ I now know the answers to those questions. No. No, it was not my fault. No, I will not and should not carry the guilt that belongs to Larry Nassar, USAG [USA Gymnastics], and others.” She wrote.
— Simone Biles (@Simone_Biles) January 15, 2018
Another Olympic gymnast, McKayla Maroney, labeled her former physician a “monster human being”. Other victims alleged that the abuse had led to eating disorders, post traumatic stress, and one even claimed that Nassar’s behaviour had caused her father’s suicide.
Like Biles, most victims criticised USA Gymnastics for ignoring their complaints and accused stakeholders of being more occupied with avoiding bad publicity than supporting their athletes.
On Monday, three top board members resigned in the wake of ongoing criticism and Nassar’s sentencing.
The last victim testimony was given by Rachel Denhollander, the first woman to ever come forward with allegations against Nassar. Through tears she explained how Nassar began abusing her in 2000 when she was just 15 years old.
“As we were being sexually violated, Larry was sexually aroused by our humiliation,” Denhollander testified.
Denhollander was praised by Aquilina for her courage in coming forward and for starting the “the tidal wave” of tragic stories.
“You are the bravest person I have ever had in my courtroom,” she said.