Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctor, is facing a possible lifetime prison sentence after being accused of sexually abusing more than 140 girls over the course of two decades.
The list of young girls and women affected by Nassar's predatory abuse extends as far back as 1998. Some of the victims were as younger than nine-years-old at the time. He was a widely revered medical professional which was a contributing factor in why the abuse continued for as long as it did. The blind eye of the administrations for the USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University teams is, according to many women who have come forward, the other reason it was able to continue.
Countless members of the Olympic gymnastics team have come forward with their accounts of abuse at the hands of Nassar. It is considered to be part of the largest sexual abuse scandal in United States sports history.
In November, Nassar pled guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct in Ingham County, Michigan. As per the terms of his plea deal, he admitted that he used his position of trust in the medical field to sexually abuse young girls. The agreement also allowed for all his accusers to give impact statements. Out of the 140 who have alleged abuse, more than 100 have signed up to appear in the courtroom of the course of four or five days.
With the staggering scale of his abuse, just how long of a prison sentence does Nassar face? County Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina who is overseeing the trial has already said she would impose a sentence that ensures he dies in jail, according to NBC News. "The next judge he faces will be God," she reportedly said on Wednesday.
Regardless of what the final sentencing results are in this historic case, Nassar has already been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for the possession of thousands of images of child pornography, as of December 2017. According to the Associated Press, this is the first of three sentences he faces, while the other two are to sexual abuse as part of the USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University teams. For that, Nassar faces a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison with the possibility of a lifetime conviction.
The 60-year federal sentence won't start until after he completes his sentences for sexual assault, the presiding judge, U.S. District Judge Janet Neff, said. Even if Nassar were to get the minimum sentence for sexual abuse, it would still amount to 85 years in total. Given the state of Michigan's sentencing guidelines, and the rampant and insidious nature of the crimes he has committed, it seems more likely that he will face lifetime charges. Though there are many states that still allow for the death penalty, it has been constitutionally banned in Michigan since 1963.
USA Gymnastics quietly fired Nassar in 2015 after learning of the allegations. It claims that it only learned of complaints about Nassar in 2015 and promptly referred those complaints to the FBI; however, reports from multiple plaintiffs allege that the governing body knew of Nassar's behavior for years before that. Olympic gold medalist McKayla Moroney's lawyer detailed USA Gymnastics settlement with the gymnast in exchange for her silence to ESPN in December of last year. "They were willing to engage in a systematic cover-up of the entire matter," he said. As reported in a timeline of Nassar's career and abuse, the earliest alleged report of misconduct came in 1998 when a student athlete at Michigan State University reported concerns to coaches, but the university "failed to take action." That would happen three times more, according to lawsuits, before Nassar was relieved of clinical and patient duties by the university in August 2016.
Not all of Nassar's victims were patients. Kyle Stephens said that her first encounter with the disgraced physician was when she was only six-years-old. He was a family friend. Stephens, one of the 100 women coming forward to speak in court, stared directly at Nassar in a Michigan courtroom and said, "Little girls don't stay little forever," Stephens testified. "They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world."
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