Some 256 women and girls have come forward as Larry Nassar victims

Day 1 of Nassar's Eaton County sentencing

CHARLOTTE, MICH. - More than 250 women and girls have told law enforcement that former MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar sexually assaulted them.

Nassar’s sentencing on three sexual assault charges in Eaton County began Wednesday morning, with 65 women and girls expected to speak.

Michigan Attorney General’s Office, which prosecuted Nassar, said that 256 women and girls have come forward to law enforcement and said Nassar sexually abused them. Police and prosecutors are still getting new complaints.

As of 1 p.m. on Wednesday, more than a dozen women and girls have given impact statements in Eaton County, where Nassar pleaded guilty to abusing young gymnastics as Twistars gymnastics club in Dimondale.

Annie LaBrie, one of the women Nassar pleaded guilty to abusing, was the second to speak today. She said there was a time when she didn't think she'd want to. 

"I thought speaking today might bring back the trauma that I experienced, and it still may," she said. "I was afraid to open an old wound. ... I was afraid I'd sound redundant, that I had nothing to say that hadn't already been said. I was afraid of vulnerability, of judgment. I was afraid to fail. 

"And then I remembered that there is power in numbers and that each and every one of us has something important to contribute to this conversation, to this movement."

Live from court: Day 1 of Larry Nassar's sentencing hearing in Eaton County

Nassar, 54, formerly of Holt, is expected to be sentenced here in Eaton County next week. Last week, a seven-day sentencing hearing in Ingham County drew international attention as 156 women and girls gave victim-impact statements. Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison in Ingham County.

That sentence, along with his Eaton County sentence, will be served after a 60-year federal prison sentence for three child pornography charges. 

Nassar's Ingham County sentenced pushed his crimes, and his connections to Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, into a bigger spotlight than they had been in over the 16 months since an Indianapolis Star article in  September 2016 sparked hundreds to say they were abused. 

Each day of that Ingham County sentencing saw an increase in the number of expected victim-impact statements, and each day saw an increase in criticism of MSU and USA Gymnastics by those who spoke.  

In the early days of that sentencing, the women and girls began referring to themselves as an "army of survivors" and took on those they said enabled Nassar's abuse. 

Hours after he was sentenced on Jan. 24, MSU President Lou Anna Simon resigned. She had been a frequent target of criticism. Two days later, Athletic Director Mark Hollis resigned.   

And on Wednesday, as the university appointed former Michigan Gov. John Engler as its new interim president, the criticism of the university did not stop. 

Madison Bonofiglio, in a written statement read by Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis, said that she sees MSU making strides recently, but the problem is larger. 

"It is the culture that surrounds college sports that creates the environment that allows sexual abuse,"  Bonofiglio wrote in her statement. 

Katherine Ebert, a current MSU student, said she's "completely heartbroken and betrayed" by the university's administration.

"It's time to accept responsibility for your actions, or rather lack thereof, and step down," she said. "I feel that the administration of my school acting as uneducated sociopaths that feel no remorse and have absolute no regard for the health and safety of the student body. 

"I do not support them. Talk is cheap, but my tuition isn't and I'm tired of your apologies."

Between 1997 and 2015 at least seven women or girls say they raised concerns about Nassar's actions to coaches, trainers, police or university officials. He was investigated twice by police but never charged, and at least once in an internal MSU inquiry that cleared him.

The university's 2014 Title IX investigation cleared him of any policy violations, in part, based on the opinions of four medical doctors who all worked for MSU and had close ties to Nassar. 

Kristine Moore, the Title IX investigator in that case, produced two versions of the conclusion section. 

Amanda Thomashow, the woman who said Nassar abused her, was not given the university's complete analysis. In the full conclusion section, Moore wrote that Nassar's conduct could open the university to lawsuits and expose patients to "unnecessary trauma based on the possibility of perceived inappropriate sexual misconduct."

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© 2018 Lansing State Journal


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