CHICAGO: Disgraced former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar faced a sentence of life in prison Wednesday for sexual abuse after a week of gut-wrenching victim impact statements from dozens of girls and women he treated.
Nassar, 54, has pleaded guilty to 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct.
He was scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday in Michigan on seven of the counts, with a separate sentence on the final three charges to be handed down at the end of the month.
Nassar, who had also been employed for decades by Michigan State University, has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges.
The body overseeing US collegiate sports, the NCAA, opened an investigation Tuesday into the university’s handling of the Nassar case.
The presiding judge at Nassar’s sentencing hearing has received approximately 158 victim impact statements, according to prosecutors. The list of people asking to speak — with Nassar in court — tripled since the hearing began a week ago.
One of them, Alison Chauvette, on Tuesday said Nassar’s abusive behaviour was so brazen, common and unchecked that she and fellow gymnasts discussed his strange treatments and simply assumed they must be legitimate.
“We young girls were fooled, but the world should not have been. USAG, Michigan State University and society all failed to keep us safe,” she said.
Like star gymnast Aly Raisman, many victims have criticised not just Nassar’s actions but the inaction of US Olympics and gymnastics officials, and Michigan State University.
Mattie Larson, a decorated former member of the US national team, called on lawmakers to pass a new bill that would require amateur athletics organisations to report allegations of sexual misconduct.
“I was shocked to learn that this law did not already exist,” Larson said, calling on Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to schedule a vote for the bill that has already cleared the US Senate.
“We must ensure that legal steps are made to prevent anything of this nature and magnitude from happening again,” she said.
Raisman, who won Olympic team gold in 2012 and 2016 and the 2012 floor exercise crown, noted that the first allegations against Nassar came ahead of the Rio Olympics.
“Survivors courageously came forward sharing stories of sexual abuse and alleging organisational mishandling,” Raisman wrote on Twitter. “The next day, the USOC said they wouldn’t investigate [and even praised USAG’s work in the area of sexual abuse].”
At day five of his sentencing hearing Monday in Michigan, more victims spoke, including Taylor Livingston, who called life a “chore” and “constant fight” due to the guilt she felt concealing the abuse from her father, who died last year.
“When you die, you’re going to hell,” she told Nassar. “But there will be a pit stop on the way where you’ll have to face my dad, who now knows what you’ve done … and when you do, you will suffer.”
Emma Ann Miller, the youngest to speak at 15, described Nassar’s actions in a supply closet during a 2016 medical appointment at a clinic she said is still trying to bill her family for the appointment.
“I’m possibly the last child you will ever assault,” Miller told Nassar, saying she plans to keep going while Nassar “fades into a federal prison cell.”