What to expect in week two of Nassar sentencing

Sunday, January 21, 2018 - 11:21pm

Larry Nassar, the former doctor for US Gymnastics and Michigan State University, is the defendant in three criminal cases –– two in state courts and one in federal court –– for possession of child pornography and sexual abuse of over one hundred athletes whose medical treatment he was responsible for. Nassar received a degree in kinesiology from the University of Michigan in 1985, and worked with the University’s football and track and field teams while he was a student. The dates of the assaults span decades, with the earliest occurring in 1992, when Nassar was still a medical student at MSU, and the latest occurring in 2016.

Several of the lawsuits against Nassar also include MSU as a defendant. MSU employees were notified of Nassar’s abuse as early as 1999, but largely either dismissed or suppressed the complaints. MSU President Lou Anna Simon was notified of a Title IX complaint and a police report against Nassar in 2014, which she said were reported to her as being “against an unnamed physician.”

Ingham County criminal case

One of the cases, a criminal case in Ingham County, has drawn widespread attention with 120 women and girls accusing him of sexual assault, many of whom are Olympic gold medalists.

Nassar has pleaded guilty to 7 counts of sexual assault, though over one hundred girls have been able to speak on their experiences of assault.

Though not a part of the Ingham County case, Olympic gymnasts Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Jamie Dantzscher also spoke on their abuse by Nassar.

The sentencing hearing began Jan. 16 and will last at least 5 days. Judge Rosemarie Aquilina set aside time for survivors to share statements in front of Nassar.

Nassar will face a minimum of 24 to 40 years in prison, and a maximum of 125 years as a result of a plea deal.

In 2015, Nassar stopped working for US Gymnastics. Later, in 2016, he was fired from MSU after patients publicly accused him of abuse.

Eaton County criminal case

A week after the Ingham County case, Nassar also pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual misconduct involving patients in Eaton County.

All three counts involved survivors 16 years of age and younger, and are said to have occurred at Twistars, a gymnastics club in Dimondale, Michigan.

The sentencing for those charges will be Jan. 31 with the same plea deal as in the lawsuit in Ingham.

Federal criminal case

In December 2017, Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in prison for possession of child pornography. If the full 60 years is served, Nassar will be 114 by the time he would serve his state sentence.

Nassar pleaded guilty to having saved 37,000 photos and videos of child pornography saved to a hard drive on his computer. He also pleaded guilty to attempting to destroy the files in order to hamper the investigation.

According to an FBI testimony, the hard drive showed evidence Nassar assaulted young girls in a pool in 2015; however, the plea deal included an agreement that Nassar would not be charged for alleged sexual exploitation.

The hearing took place in a federal court in Grand Rapids. After pleading guilty in front of Magistrate Judge Ray Kent, MSU spokespeople and Kent expressed disgust toward Nassar.

“(Nassar poses) the worst kind of risk to our community: A risk to our children,” Kent said.

Suit against MSU

In addition to charges against Nassar, MSU is also facing lawsuits for failing to protect at least 120 women and girls from Nassar’s sexual abuse.

The allegations against MSU claim the university, as well as some of its employees, had knowledge of the abuse taking place. However, MSU filed a motion for dismissal on the grounds that its status as a state institution offers it “absolute immunity from liability” for Nassar’s actions.

In 2014, a recently graduated student filed a sexual assault complaint against Nassar, prompting an internal investigation conducted by the Title IX office. After collecting the opinions of four medical professionals who worked closely both with MSU and Nassar, the office cleared Nassar of all violations. The complaint also warranted an investigation from the police.  

Many members of the community are pushing for Simon to resign, as some believe she knew of Nassar’s abuse yet failed to act on it. Though the MSU Board of Trustees announced they continue to support Lou Anna Simon, trustee Mitch Lyons has called for her to resign in addition to the Michigan Senate majority and minority leaders, the State News editorial board and the Michigan State student government.

The university has employed the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, who has charged the university over $3.5 million for their work.