Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctor accused of sexually abusing more than 140 girls and women, was rebuked for a half hour during his sentencing hearing on Thursday after telling a judge that it was too difficult for him to listen to the victim impact statements.
Judge Rosemarie Aquilina read the six-page, single-spaced letter aloud in court on Thursday, in which Nassar stated he feared for his mental health amid the parade of victims speaking out against him and accused the judge of grandstanding and turning the hearing into a “media circus” by placing him in the witness box to face his victims in view of the cameras.
“I have to say this isn’t worth the paper it’s written on,” Aquilina said on Thursday. “You may find it harsh that you are here listening, but nothing is as harsh as what your victims endured for thousands of hours at your hands.”
The judge dismissed the letter as “mumbo jumbo” on the third day of statements from the more than 100 of Nassar’s victims who signed up to appear in the courtroom and tell their stories or have their words read into the court record.
“Spending four or five days listening to them is minor, considering the hours of pleasure you’ve had at their expense, ruining their lives,” Aquilina said.
Nassar, who last month was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison in a separate case regarding child abuse images, faces an additional minimum sentence of 25 to 40 years after admitting to molesting girls at Michigan State University and his home under the guise of medical treatment.
Jamie Dantzscher, a 2000 Olympic bronze medalist who was one of the first women to publicly accuse the longtime team doctor, described her struggles with “anorexia, bulimia, and depression so severe that I was hospitalized for attempting suicide”, saying she never understood why she was struggling but realized after speaking with a friend that Nassar’s “treatments” constituted abuse.
“I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me,” Dantzscher said. “Why I was struggling so much. Why I didn’t feel proud of my accomplishments. I had zero self confidence.”
She added: “You are pure evil.”
— Clayton Cummins (@ClaytonCummins) January 18, 2018
McKayla Maroney, who helped the US gymnastics team known as the Fierce Five to a gold medal at the London Olympics and added an individual silver in the vault, said Nassar “left scars on my psyche that may never go away” in a statement read by a prosecutor.
“It is my hope that law enforcement agencies will not close the book on this once Nassar is sentenced,” she said. “USA Gymnastics, Michigan State and the US Olympic Committee must be held accountable for enabling him.”
— Sarah Rahal (@SarahRahal_) January 18, 2018
Maroney is one of several Olympic champions, including Simone Biles, who say they were abused by Nassar.
Lindsey Lemke, a former Michigan State gymnast, addressed Nassar directly but also levelled criticism on those she believed were complicit in the disgraced physician’s crimes. She called former USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny a “coward” and attacked club coach John Geddert as a “disgrace” since many instance of the abuse were alleged to have taken place at his Twistars Gym.
Lemke also criticized Kathie Klages, Michigan State’s former women’s gymnastics coach, who allegedly was told of abuse in 1997 and remained silent for years, saying the Lansing university “created an environment where victims were afraid to speak up”.
The statements from Dantzscher, Maroney and Lemke were the only victims to be heard before lunch recess was called after an onlooker reportedly vomited in the courtroom during testimony.
Later Thursday, USA Gymnastics announced it had terminated its agreement with the Karolyi Ranch, which has served as the national team training center since 2001 and where many of Nassar’s crimes were alleged to have taken places.
“It has been my intent to terminate this agreement since I began as president and CEO in December,” Kerry Perry, president and CEO of the governing body said. “Our most important priority is our athletes, and their training environment must reflect this. We are committed to a culture that empowers and supports our athletes.
“We have cancelled next week’s training camp for the US women’s national team. We are exploring alternative sites to host training activities and camps until a permanent location is determined. We thank all those in the gymnastics community assisting in these efforts.”