Yesterday former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison, after a seven-day sentencing hearing in which Michigan Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina invited any of those abused by Nassar to confront the disgraced sports doctor, who is now accused of sexually assaulting more than 150 young women, including Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles.
"I just signed your death warrant," she told Nassar. "I find that you don't get it, that you're a danger. That you remain a danger."
Over the course of the sentencing hearing, which started on January 15, more than 150 young women faced Nassar, calling him out for years of sexual abuse. Several other Olympic gymnasts have come forward since the first reports were filed against Nassar by former gymnast Rachel Denhollander back in late 2016, including gold medalists Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber.
Maroney initially was not allowed to speak in court, because she'd signed a nondisclosure agreement with USA Gymnastics, the governing body of the sport, but after several celebrities offered to pay the $100,000 fine she would incur for breaking the agreement, USAG officials announced the organization would not fine her.
Raisman also took the stand and made a powerful statement. “Imagine feeling like you have no power and no voice," she said, looking directly at Nassar. “Well, you know what, Larry? I have both power and voice, and I am only just beginning to use them. All these brave women have power, and we will use our voices to make sure you get what you deserve: a life of suffering spent replaying the words delivered by this powerful army of survivors.”
Maroney, too, made a statement. “Dr. Nassar was not a doctor,” she said. “He in fact is, was, and forever shall be a child molester, and a monster of a human being.”
Nassar attempted to show he is now contrite about how he used his status as the official doctor for the U.S. women's gymnastics team to sexually abuse young female athletes (both those on the Olympic team and those coming to him for treatment at Michigan State and his private sports medicine practice), turning to face the audience in the courtroom as he read a prepared statement claiming the things he had heard in his sentencing hearing had shaken him to his core.
Aquilina wasn't having it. Before pronouncing his sentence, the judge read a letter Nassar had written to the court recently defending the medical care he had provided and stating that he was "manipulated" into pleading guilty. "I was a good doctor because my treatments worked, and those patients that are now speaking out are the same ones that praised and came back over and over," Nassar wrote. "The media convinced them that everything I did was wrong and bad. They feel I broke their trust. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."
“This letter tells me you have not yet owned what you did,” she said. “You still think somehow you are right, you’re a doctor, that you’re entitled, so you don’t have to listen. That you did ‘treatment.’ I wouldn’t send my dogs to you, sir.”
Aquilina sentenced Nassar to a minimum of 40 years as required by a plea deal, but made it clear that he should not expect to ever walk as a free man again. This sentence comes in addition to a 60-year federal sentence Nassar received for charges of child pornography.
Jordan Weiber, a retired artistic gymnast and member of the "Fierce Five" who competed in and dominated the 2012 Olympics, was also abused by Nassar under the guise of treatment. She issued a heartfelt thank you to Aquilina via Instagram:
Thank you to Judge Aquilina. Thank you to EVERY SINGLE person that came forward and shared their story, both in and out of the courtroom. And thank you to everyone who has reached out in support. ❤️ justice was served today and now it’s time for CHANGE #timesup pic.twitter.com/mI24s9qn1t— Jordyn Wieber (@jordyn_wieber) January 24, 2018
Biles, who last week revealed that she too had been abused by Nassar, did not attend the hearing, but also made it clear how grateful she is to Aquilina for what the judge has done to truly and publicly hold Nassar accountable for his crimes in a post on Instagram:
To Judge Aquilina : THANK YOU, YOU ARE MY HERO— Simone Biles (@Simone_Biles) January 24, 2018
Shout out to all of the survivors for being so brave & speaking like the queens that you are while looking at that monster. He will no longer have the power to steal our happiness or joy. I stand with every one of you 💛 pic.twitter.com/b5SMmjZgeW
Meanwhile, there is still reckoning to be done. Nassar was also a team doctor for the women's gymnastics team at Michigan State, which has led Michigan State President Lou Anna Smith to resign as well. Three USAG board members stepped down on Monday, as the sentencing hearing made it increasingly impossible to ignore the extent and scope of abuse Nassar was able to inflict without any significant oversight from officials; the U.S. Olympic Committee is now calling for the entire board to resign.
USAG has also finally ended its lease with Karolyi Ranch, the training camp set up just outside of Huntsville by famed coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi, where Nassar somehow got away with sexually assaulting young gymnasts repeatedly for more than 20 years before a coach overheard two athletes talking about Nassar's "special treatment" and reported it more than two years ago, kicking off the domino effect that has ultimately led to his undoing.
It's unclear what will happen next. The Walker County Sheriff's Department is investigating Karolyi Ranch, as we've previously reported, and although they've declined to say what the scope of their investigation entails, it's a start toward gaining some understanding of how Nassar was able to abuse so many gymnasts for so long while working under the Karolyis and whether the allegations in court records stating that the Karolyis were complicit in this scandal is true. But that is a question that may take months or even years to answer.
For now, it's enough to know that a man who misused the trust of so many young women will be going to prison for the rest of his life for his crimes, and that the women he abused got to help take him down.