Former sports doctor Larry Nassar, accused of multiple sexual abuse of young gymnasts, will end his days in jail after being sentenced to a heavy sentence in a landmark trial where victims, champions as well as anonymous, delivered poignant testimonies of their broken life.
“I have just signed your death warrant,” Justice Rosemarie Aquilina said, with a sentence ranging from 40 to 175 years in prison for seven counts. This sentence is in addition to a 60-year sentence for child pornography, another aspect of the case that shook the world of American gymnastics.
“You do not deserve to go out for a day,” said the judge, saying “wherever you go, the most vulnerable will be destroyed.” She has several times thanked the “survivors” who have testified at this extraordinary trial held in Lansing (Michigan, North) and whose last moments were broadcast live on news channels. The room, overwhelmed, applauded when she left the courtroom.
In total, the court has received nearly 160 testimonies from victims, some of whom are among the best known in the discipline, who have revealed with emotion their ordeal and the difficulty of rebuilding themselves. In the wake of the Weinstein affair, they recounted the actions of a sexual predator hidden behind the image of a benevolent osteopath with the athletes.
“He stole from his victims their innocence, he lied about his attitude and he abused the parents, the community and the whole world of their trust in the doctors,” said prosecutor Angela Povilaitis in her requisitions.
In a short statement, Larry Nassar turned to his victims to apologize for the “pain, trauma and emotional destruction” he had inflicted on them.
The doctor, considered a “miracle worker”, has acted with impunity for two decades, while America dominated the world gymnastics, until the first revelations in 2016.
The case has dropped several heads in the American Gymnastics Federation Gymnastics, accused of being late in denouncing the actions of its medical coordinator. The National Olympic Committee (Usoc), where Nassar has officiated for four years, will launch an independent investigation to “determine how abuses of this magnitude have not been detected for so long.”
The governing body of university sport, the NCAA, has also opened an investigation into Larry Nassar’s leadership in the University of Michigan (MSU) medical team, while several complaints have not followed suit.
At the hearing, Taylor Livingston, a gymnast, recounted her “daily fight” against the guilt of not revealing abuse to her father, who died last year.
“At your death, you will go to hell,” she said to the accused. “But before, you will pass in front of my father, who knows now what you did … And there, you will suffer”.
Another, Amy Labadie, claimed to have “lost all joie de vivre”.
The biggest names in contemporary American gymnastics have also reported having suffered, without protest, the touching of the osteopath during massages.
Dr. Nassar “took advantage of our passions and dreams,” said Aly Raisman, Olympic champion at the London and Rio Games, now 23 years old. Teammates Jordyn Wieber, Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney all revealed that they were the victims.
“You manipulated me so that I think you were nice and you helped me while you sexually assaulted me again and again and again for your only twisted sexual pleasure,” Jamie Dantzscher, a doctor, said. medalist at the Sydney Games.
Rachael Denhollander, the first to publicly report her attacker and report her to the police, was the last to speak on Wednesday. She recounted having suffered “shameless sexual assault” at the age of 15 while her mother was in the room. “I convinced myself it was normal because I trusted the adults around me,” she said.
Larry Nassar had said he feared for his sanity if he was forced to listen to all these testimonies. Judge Aquilina replied in an indignant tone: “Spending four or five days listening to them is nothing compared to the hours of pleasure you took at their expense, destroying their lives.”