'Shockingly large' collection of child porn brings Dr. Larry Nassar 60 years

Larry Nassar listens during his preliminary hearing on sexual assault charges on May 26, 2017 at the 55th District Court in Mason.
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Larry Nassar, the former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor, was sentenced on Thursday to 60 years in federal prison for a 'shockingly large' collection of child pornography a judge said also plays into the sexual abuse of children.

"It is imperative Mr. Nassar be deterred as long as possible,'' U.S. District Court Judge Janet T. Neff said. "He should never again have access to children.''

Nassar amassed an estimated 37,000 images and videos of child pornography between 2003 and 2016, some involving girls as young as six.

"His actions fuel the demand for the product,'' Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Lewis said.  "It perpetuates the harm to those victims.''

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In addition to prison, Neff ordered Nassar to pay $57,488 in restitution. Today’s hearing in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids only resolves the federal charges. Nassar is awaiting sentencing next month for molesting female gymnasts in the Lansing area.

Nassar, 54, told the court he's been battling an addiction, not unlike drugs or alcohol. “I’ve lost everything because of it,’’ Nassar said. “It’s horrific.’’

The divorced father of three told the packed federal courtroom that he tried to be a good person and help others. He also said he hopes the victims will one day be able to forgive him.

"You go back and you wonder how I got down this path to begin with,'' Nassar said in a barely audible voice. "I'm going to take every day of your sentence to try to better myself.''

Defense attorney Matthew Newburg described Nassar as a "God fearing'' family man who is "deeply remorseful for his actions.''

"He wishes he could turn back the hands of time,'' Newburg said.

"It's a common theme,'' the judge responded.

A presentence report indicates that Nassar accessed child pornography “hoping to get stress relief,’’ Neff noted. “The rationalization wears thin,’’ the judge said.

In asking for the maximum sentence possible, Lewis said Nassar, a world-renowned doctor to elite athletes, lived a double life. Beneath the veneer of respectability and success “lurked a predator’’ who “shattered innocence,’’ Lewis said.

“His sexual interest in children manifested itself in amassing child pornography and assaulting kids,’’ Lewis said. “You can’t talk about one without the other.’’

Nassar violated a position of trust and “took advantage of a culture where only the strong survive,’’ Lewis told the court.

In a sentencing memorandum, Lewis asked for a 60-year sentence due to the “scope and duration of sexual assaults against children and vulnerable patients and the magnitude of harms he inflicted on his victims.’’

Federal guidelines recommended a prison term of between 22 and 27 years. The sentence handed down Thursday will run consecutive to whatever sentence Nassar receives in two state courts next month, Neff ruled.

"He harmed so many young people in terms of their ability to trust,'' said Neff, the mother of two daughters. "Frankly, I have a hard time considering Mr. Nassar a physician.''

Nassar pleaded guilty in July to receipt/attempted receipt of child pornography, possession of child pornography and destruction and concealment of records.  Neff sentenced him to 20 years on each count, but said the sentences will be served consecutive, or back to back.

In November, Nassar pleaded guilty to 10 sexual assault charges in circuit courts in Ingham and Eaton counties. He's facing up to life in prison for first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Neff’s decision to have the federal sentences run consecutive to whatever is handed down in the state cases did not sit well with Nassar’s legal team.

“I think he’s devastated,’’ defense attorney Shannon Smith said outside the courtroom. 

"He's disappointed in the sentences; I'm sure he anticipates filing an appeal,'' Newburg added. "They should be concurrent, not consecutive.''

Nassar is also being sued by more than 140 women or girls in numerous federal lawsuits filed this year.

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