CHARLOTTE, MICH. - Five hundred and twenty seven days after Rachael Denhollander called MSU police — and after more than 260 additional sexual assault reports, 13 convictions and nine days of victim-impact statements — the criminal cases against Larry Nassar are over.
Eaton County Judge Janice Cunningham sentenced the disgraced former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor this morning to 40 to 125 years in prison.
It's the third decades-long prison sentence he's received since Dec. 7, this one on three charges of sexually assaulting girls during medical appointments at Twistars gymnastics club in Dimondale.
“When a crime involves a child, when it involves an adult harming an defenseless child, it is only natural to think in terms of an eye for an eye and to want revenge,” Judge Cunningham said.
“You are a doctor, you took an oath to do no harm and you have harmed over 256 women and that is beyond comprehension.”
Nassar gave a brief statment before he was sentenced:
"The words expressed by everyone that has spoken including the parents, have impacted me to my inner-most core. With that being said, I understand and acknowledge that it pales in comparison to the pain, trauma and emotions that you all are feeling. It’s impossible to convey the depth and breadth of how sorry I am to each and every one involved. The visions of your testimonies will forever be present in my thoughts."
Denhollander, the first woman to publicly say that Nassar sexually assaulted her, was in the courtroom as Cunningham sentenced Nassar, just as she was in Ingham County last month when Nassar was sentenced there. She gave the final victim-impact statement in both cases and was one of about 200 women and girls to do so.
Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis, the lead prosecutor on the case, spoke first on Monday, laying the foundation for the sentence her office was seeking. She stared by asking a question.
"Will we ever truly know the breadth of the evil acts committed by this defendant?," she said. "After 156 women came forward to share their heartbreaking experience in Ingham County over the course of seven days, 48 new voices emerged here in Eaton County."
Much like she did when she spoke in Ingham County, Povilaitis spent a good portion of her time on Monday talking about the societal characteristics that allowed Nassar to thrive.
She spoke about what it took for at 265 women and girls to feel comfortable coming forward, and for them to be believed. She mention the efforts of Denhollander and the Indianapolis Star reporters who told her story, and that it took federal charges related to at least 37,000 images and videos of child pornography for many to drop their support of Nassar.
"It should be easier than that," she said. "It has to be easier than that. And it can be. We must all start by believing victims when they tell."
The State Journal reported in June that 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.
Nassar's seven-day Ingham County sentencing hearing drew international attention as 156 women and girls gave impact statements, many while being publicly identified and having their faces and voices broadcast live.
That sentencing pushed Nassar's crimes and his connections to MSU and USA Gymnastics into a spotlight far brighter than they had been in during the nearly 17 months since an Indianapolis Star story revealed allegations against him.
That story followed an IndyStar investigation of USA Gymnastics, begun in 2016, that uncovered widespread sexual abuse of athletes by coaches and others and failures to alert authorities. The IndyStar, part of the USA TODAY Network, revealed the first allegations of abuse by Nassar, including those from Denhollander, in September 2016. A few days later, MSU fired him.
Nassar, 54, formerly of Holt, was sentenced in December to 60 years in prison on three federal child pornography charges. In January, he was sentenced to 40 to 175 years on seven sexual assault charges in Ingham County. Nassar had pleaded guilty to both the federal and state charges as part of plea agreements.
He must serve the entirety of his federal sentence before he can serve any time on the state sentences, which he will serve at the same time.
Eaton County officials said this morning that Nassar had been lodged in their jail since Jan. 24, the day he was sentenced in Ingham County. Spokeswoman Jerri Nesbitt said sheriff's officials cannot say when he will leave and cannot disclose where he's being sent until after he is gone.
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Contact Matt Mencarini at (517) 267-1347 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattMencarini.
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