LANSING - For the fifth consecutive day of Larry Nassar's sentence hearing, the number of women and girls expected to give impact statements has grown.
The Michigan Attorney General's Office now expects 144 women and girls to give statements. In the days leading up to the beginning of what was expected to be a four-day hearing, 88 were expected to speak.
By Friday, a total of 120 people had asked to speak. Over the weekend, 24 more people came forward.
On Thursday, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina read a letter Nassar had written before the sentencing hearing began, saying he didn't think he could mentally handle four days of impact statements.
Emma Ann Miller, 15, said during her impact statement this morning that Nassar wrote that because he knew how many would come forward to speak.
"He knew what was coming," Miller told Aquilina. "And just like he should have been, he was afraid."
Miller asked Aquilina to sentence Nassar to at least 125 years in prison, which would give him the chance to withdraw his plea and proceed to trial. Miller said she wanted Nassar to have to choose whether to take the greater sentence or face several of these women and girls again at a trial.
Aquilina has indicated that she will abide by the plea agreement, which sets the low end of his sentence between 25 and 40 years in prison. The maximum sentence can be up to life in prison.
Starting on Wednesday, the second day of the sentencing, the "army of survivors" theme began to emerge, prompting more and more women and girls to come forward and speak.
Just as the number of women and girls has increased, so has the number who want to be publicly identified. They have the choice to speak anonymously, with the media barred from reporting identifiable information.
The first week of Nassar's sentencing hearing saw impact statements read in person by U.S. Olympic medalists Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman and Jamie Dantzscher. A statement from McKayla Maroney was read by the prosecutor.
But last week, just like the today, included many women and girls speaking who weren't high profile names. Some had seen Nassar for years during youth gymnastics, some had seen him for other sports. Their path to Nassar all varied.
Amanda Smith was 8 years old when she began begging her parents to take her to Twistars gymnastics club in Dimondale, and they did. A year later, they moved the family closer, to give her gymnastics dreams a better chance.
Twistars is where Smith met Nassar, she said this morning, the seventh woman to speak on the day and the 96th since the sentencing began last Tuesday.
But she wasn't abused until years later, when she competed in track and field.
"I may not be an Olympian or a Big Ten athlete, but I have a voice," Smith said. "My voice will be the voice for the voiceless, the ones who were let down by institutions like USAG and MSU, the ones that are too afraid to speak or have not yet come forward.
"Whether we were abused one time or 100 times, it's never OK. I will not stop speaking until I am heard, until we are heard, and things have changed."
Emotions in the courtroom have run high for all five days.
Nearly every woman and girl to speak describes the abuse by Nassar, and the lasting trauma that followed. They have nightmares. They have trouble trusting. They've considered or attempted suicide.
But many, seemingly more each day, have been critical of Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, saying the organizations enabled Nassar's decades of abuse.
Monday was no different.
Clasina Syrovy asked why no one who was told of Nassar's abuse years ago listened.
"What good is it to teach children to tell an adult, if the grownup doesn't listen, doesn't take action?" she asked, as she cried. "As coaches and officials governing our sport, why did they fail us?
"It boggles my mind that reports came out to MSU and they failed to investigate it. ... I just want to know if any of these major institutions are standing behind us or if they all are on the sidelines trying to alleviate responsibly."
Syrovy called MSU President Lou Anna Simon a "coward," and added that she should resign because she didn't deserve the title.
"MSU did nothing to stop this," she said.
Miller, the 15-year-old who spoke, was also critical of MSU, saying the university should should be responsible for its employee who sexually assaulted young girls for 20 years. She said she was determined to make sure they were, but also struck a tone different from the others who have mentioned the university.
"I don't have to be ashamed or anti-MSU," she said. "I can be a Spartan if I choose. I can yell, Go Green. Let me say that again, judge, because I don't think the crowd heard me. Go Green."
Then, several people in the gallery completed the university's signature chant by shouting back, "Go White."
"I can root for Miles Bridges, if I want," Miller said, "and still hold you, MSU, accountable."
Nassar, 54, of Holt, pleaded guilty in November to 10 sexual assault charges split between Ingham and Eaton counties. The plea agreements set the low end of his sentence between 25 and 40 years in prison and the maximum sentence being up to life. The judge will set the high and low end. His Eaton County sentencing is set for Jan. 31.
The plea agreement also required that those abused by Nassar be given the chance to give an impact statement at his sentencing hearing.
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