Saturday 21 July 2018

Gymnastics doctor accused of sexually abusing more than 150 young girls jailed for 175 years

Judge tells predator who abused girls: 'I've just signed your death warrant'

Larry Nassar (centre) makes a statement in the courtroom during his sentencing hearing in Lansing, Michigan, yesterday. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Larry Nassar (centre) makes a statement in the courtroom during his sentencing hearing in Lansing, Michigan, yesterday. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Harriet Alexander in New York

Larry Nassar, the former US gymnastics team doctor who was accused of sexually abusing more than 150 young girls, has been sentenced to up to 175 years in prison.

"I just signed your death warrant," said Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, of Ingham County circuit court in Michigan, who described him as "precise, calculative, manipulative, devious and despicable".

She said he must serve a minimum of 40 years, and said he does not deserve to walk outside a prison again, adding: "Anywhere you walk, destruction will occur."

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 Judge Aquilina dismissed his statement as insincere, reading aloud from a letter Nassar wrote to her in which he claimed he was a good doctor who was "manipulated" into pleading guilty, drawing gasps from courtroom spectators. He also wrote: "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."

After angrily tossing the sheet of paper aside, Judge Aquilina said: "This letter tells me you still do not own what you did. I wouldn't send my dogs to you, sir."

Victims and others look on as Rachael Denhollander, who became the first victim to file a criminal complaint, speaks at the hearing. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Victims and others look on as Rachael Denhollander, who became the first victim to file a criminal complaint, speaks at the hearing. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

She added: "I find that you don't get it. That you're a danger. I'm a judge who believes in life, and rehabilitation. But I don't find that's possible with you."

She praised the women who spoke out, saying: "You are no longer victims. You are survivors."

She noted that one in 10 children will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday.

"That means that in the United States, 400,000 babies born in the US will become victims of child sexual abuse," she said.

"It stops now. Speak out like these survivors; become part of the army."

She said there needed to be an investigation into why Nassar was able to get away with his crimes for decades.

Nassar (54) worked at Michigan State University and for USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.

Over the course of 25 years he was accused of abusing well over 150 girls who went to him for treatment. Among those who accused him were Olympic heroines Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman. One woman, Kyle Stephens, was only six years old when the abuse began. Nassar, a family friend, began molesting her at her own home and her parents did not believe her when she told them.

"You convinced my parents that I was a liar," Stephens told the court. "Little girls don't stay little forever. They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world."

Once her father realised she was telling the truth, he took his own life, Stephens said.

Angela Povilaitis, the assistant attorney general for Michigan, described him as "possibly the most prolific child abuser in history".

"His practiced and perfected abuse spanned over 25 years," she said, adding that he "used his prestige to gain the trust of these girls, to exploit them".

She described him as "a master manipulator" who had deceived parents, the press, the police, prior investigators, and even tried to manipulate the judge through his "pathetic" letter of remorse.

"In competitive gymnastics he found the perfect place for this master manipulation," she said. "Young girls bear the pain. Their bodies are constantly on display. It takes some kind of sick perversion to abuse a girl while the parents are in the room."

At times, she said, Nassar abused the girls at his home, while his wife and children were upstairs. And frequently the parents were in the room.

"To penetrate a young minor for your own sexual gains, while the parents sat just meters away, had to be part of the thrill," she said.

"Nasser perfected a built-in excuse and defence: he was a doctor, and a good one - so the world thought."

She praised the victims for speaking out, and the investigative journalists at the 'Indy Star', who published the first exposé in August 2016.

Rachael Denhollander then became the first victim to file a criminal complaint against Nassar, alleging that in 2000, at age 15, she was sexually abused by Nassar during treatments for lower back pain.

In the past week the court has heard powerful testimony from 156 women who accused Nassar of abuse. The judge was also handed a folder of two dozen impact statements.

Last July, he plead guilty to child pornography charges after 37,000 images were found on his computer and was sentenced to 60 years.

In the sexual abuse case, in November he admitted to digitally penetrating seven girls, mostly under the guise of treatment at his home and a campus clinic, between 1998 and 2015. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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