Larry Nassar, the former sports physician who treated the U.S. Olympic women gymnasts, was sentenced to 40–175 years in prison Wednesday by a federal judge in East Lansing, Michigan.
There were 156 victim statements heard in the case. All came from women and girls accusing Nassar of sexual abuse.
Nassar worked at Michigan State University in various capacities from 1996 to 2016, mostly in roles as the team physician. He was also a doctor for USA Gymnastics and treated multiple Olympians during his time there.
USA Gymnastics is based in Indianapolis. Its entire board of directors announced Friday it will resign in the wake of the Nassar scandal, yielding to demands Thursday from the United States Olympic Committee.
The MSU president and athletic director also resigned last week.
“For over 20 years, defendant Nassar had unfettered access to young female athletes through the Sports Medicine Clinic at MSU,” court documents filed in March 2017 said.
Investigations showed that plaintiffs seeking treatment for neck pain, back pain and other minor ailments were sexually assaulted and abused by the doctor.
As a doctor of osteopathic medicine, Nassar’s job was supposed to primarily include work on joints, bones and muscles.
According to the women who testified, their treatment more often included breast rubbing and vaginal fingering.
It came out over the course of his trial that misconduct was reported to MSU’s head gymnastics coach Kathie Klages in 1997 or 1998, but court documents say Klages dissuaded the athlete who told her from filing a complaint.
Klages said the report would have serious consequences for both the athlete and Nassar. Reports affirming Nassar’s abuse were made to MSU employees again in 1999 and 2000.
Court filings said girls and women were abused from 2000 to 2016 because MSU took no action against Nassar in these early allegations.
Nassar’s position was again called into question in 2014 when a plaintiff reported she had an appointment with him to address hip pain that resulted in sexual abuse and molestation.
MSU investigated these allegations, but dismissed them after concluding the defendant didn’t understand the “nuanced difference” between sexual abuse and appropriate medical procedure.
One woman, known as Jane JMSU Doe in court documents, said she did not realize Nassar’s conduct was not medical procedure until she started hearing other women come forward about their experiences.
Many victims shared the same story of trusting Nassar until hearing other accounts.
Nassar was instructed not to treat patients alone after the 2014 investigation in concurrence with new institutional guidelines. He defied these instructions.
There are over 150 statements alleging sexual abuse in this case, and each mirrors the last, sometimes almost perfectly.
Nassar fingered his patients vaginally and anally without gloves and called it medical procedure without explaining why it was necessary. He often rubbed their breasts and would sometimes say sexually explicit things to them.
MSU is accused of violating Title IX, a federal law which requires investigation of sexual assault, abuse or harassment claims and states that no person will be discriminated against based on sex, for not responding appropriately to the allegations against Nassar.
The university is also accused of fostering a sexually hostile environment.
In September 2016, Nassar’s employment with MSU ended when the university became aware of a former Olympian suing Nassar for sexual assault.
In November 2016, Nassar was charged in Ingham County, Michigan, for sexual conduct with a person under 13.
In December 2016, Nassar was charged in Federal Court for possession of child pornography.
After a seven-day hearing, Larry Nassar, 54, will likely spend the rest of his life in prison. He will serve no less than 40 years.
"May the horror expressed in this courtroom over the last seven days be motivation for anyone and everyone, no matter the context, to take responsibility if they have failed in protecting a child," said Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual abuse, shortly before his sentencing Wednesday. "To understand the incredible failures that led to this week, and to do it better the next time."
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