Larry Nassar's federal sentencing: 5 things to know

Larry Nassar, the now-infamous former Michigan State University and Olympic doctor, will be sentenced in federal court in Grand Rapids Thursday on child pornography charges.  

Nassar, a 54-year-old Holt man, pleaded guilty in July to three federal charges after investigators said he possessed more than 37,000 videos and images of child pornography. 

 Below are five things to watch as Nassar faces U.S. District Judge Janet Neff at 11 a.m.: 

1.) His sentence could land almost anywhere 

Nassar's guilty plea this summer was secured in a deal with the U.S. Attorney's Office, who agreed not to prosecute him for alleged sexual exploitation or attempted sexual exploitation of four child victims, including an incident in 2015 in his swimming pool. The plea deal included sentencing guidelines calling for 22 to 27 years in prison.

2.) More than 140 women or girls have accused him of abuse, but none will speak in court 

In federal lawsuits, more than 140 women or girls have accused Nassar of assaulting them, often during medical appointments. 

However, it appears none will speak at Nassar's sentencing today. Last week, Neff denied a request from the U.S. Attorney's Office to allow six victims to speak at sentencing. Two victims who said Nassar assaulted them beginning when they were 16, three who said Nassar assaulted them when they were younger than 16, and the mother of another victim who is still a minor had asked to speak. 

Neff said those and other victims will have other chances to speak and said she must give "a voice to those who otherwise cannot and may never be heard." 

Neff is considering written victim statements and said she'll make room for victims to attend sentencing. Several victims plan to attend the sentencing and will speak at news conferences after the hearing, including former Michigan gymnast Rachel Denhollander, the first to publicly accuse Nassar, and Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney, who accused Nassar of assault in October as part of the ongoing #MeToo social media campaign. 

3.) We won't know until it's over 

Federal court rules prohibit cell phones, laptops or cameras in the courtroom, so there should be no live-tweeting, news updates or TV broadcasts during the hearing.   

4.) This isn't the end 

Today is only the beginning of the end of Nassar's time in court.  

In addition to the federal child pornography changes, Nassar has pleaded guilty to sexual assault in state court in both Ingham and Eaton counties. He faces up to life in prison on those charges when he's sentenced on Jan. 12 in Ingham County and Jan. 31 in Eaton County.  

In addition, the State Journal reported Tuesday that negotiations in the federal lawsuits were unsuccessful, meaning attorneys on all sides will begin preparing for a possible trial.  

5.) Others have faced consequences, and there have been calls for more 

Named as defendants in those lawsuits are Michigan State University, where Nassar was an esteemed physician for nearly 20 years, USA Gymnastics, for whom Nassar treated Olympic athletes, and the Dimondale gymnastics club Twistars, where Nassar also worked with gymnasts. 

In the lawsuits, the scores of victims accuse those organizations of failing to protect them. 

There have already been others hit by the Nassar scandal. MSU gymnastics coach Kathie Klages retired in February and MSU physician Brooke Lemmen resigned the following month amid questions about handling of issues related to Nassar. USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny also resigned in March; Nassar's admitted crimes first came to light as part of a broader Indianapolis Star investigation about USA Gymnastics' lackluster handling of abuse allegations.  

However, several victims have called for more officials to be held accountable. Some, including the LSJ Editorial Board, have called for MSU President Lou Anna Simon to resign. 

It isn't clear what might happen next. The MSU board has resisted pressure to oust Simon, but Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette recently asked the university to provide his office with the findings of its internal investigation into officials' handling of Nassar. 

On Wednesday, Schuette refused to tell reporters if he would independently investigate the university should the internal review leave unanswered questions.

© Lansing State Journal


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