Talk about chutzpah. “Now this is entertaining to me,” Judge Rosemarie Aquilina commented as she read a letter from Larry Nassar, the USA Gymnastics doctor accused of molesting scores of girls in and out of the program. Nassar had written a lengthy plea to be excused from the ongoing victim impact statements in his sentencing trial, because the stress of listening to his victims testify was, er, damaging his mental health.
“I suspect you have watched too much television,” Aquilina rebuked him, and told Nassar that he earned every second of this experience. The five days Nassar has to endure this is nothing compared to the “hours of pleasure” Nassar gained at his victims’ expense, and their years of pain and struggle afterward:
Former gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, accused of sexually abusing more than 140 girls and women, picked a fight with the judge overseeing his marathon sentencing hearing.
He lost. ….
“Aquilina is allowing them all to talk,” he wrote. “She wants me to sit in the witness box next to her for all four days so the media cameras will be directed at her.”
The judge sounded incredulous as she read the words aloud, saying she didn’t need the face time.
“I don’t have a dog in this fight, sir,” she said, adding, “I didn’t want even one victim to lose their voice.”
“Spending four or five days listening to them is significantly minor considering the hours of pleasure you had at their expense and ruining their lives,” she said.
Nassar alleged that the plea agreement only allowed for seven victim statements to match the seven counts to which he pled guilty. Aquilina suggested he reread the document:
Nassar pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and didn’t see why more than 100 women should get to speak at the hearing.
Judge Aquilina reminded Nassar that he and his counsel were informed about the victim impact statements prior to sentencing, and that page three of Nassar’s plea agreement addresses victim impact statements, saying, “included shall be the 125 victims who have reported their assaults.” Aquilina further pointed out that the agreement said “included” but not “limited to.”
Aquilina informed Nassar that he has taxpayer-funded mental health assistance available if he needs it. Otherwise, the judge said, knock off “writing this mumbo-jumbo.”
The victim impact statements continue today, but so do other questions, especially about how Nassar managed to avoid getting caught for so many years. The Detroit News published a lengthy report this morning accusing Michigan State University of willfully ignoring more than a dozen reports of sexual misconduct about Nassar over two decades, at least one of which went all the way to university president Lou Anna Simon:
Reports of sexual misconduct by Dr. Larry Nassar reached at least 14 Michigan State University representatives in the two decades before his arrest, with no fewer than eight women reporting his actions, a Detroit News investigation has found.
Among those notified was MSU President Lou Anna Simon, who was informed in 2014 that a Title IX complaint and a police report had been filed against an unnamed physician, she told The News on Wednesday.
“I was informed that a sports medicine doctor was under investigation,” said Simon, who made the brief comments after appearing in court Wednesday to observe a sentencing hearing for Nassar. “I told people to play it straight up, and I did not receive a copy of the report. That’s the truth.”
Among the others who were aware of alleged abuse were athletic trainers, assistant coaches, a university police detective and an official who is now MSU’s assistant general counsel, according to university records and accounts of victims who spoke to The News.
Collectively, the accounts show MSU missed multiple opportunities over two decades to stop Nassar, a graduate of its osteopathic medical school who became a renowned doctor but went on to molest scores of girls and women under the guise of treating them for pain.
Simon tried to offer an anodyne statement yesterday about MSU’s attempts to make restitution, and got confronted by victims outside the courtroom:
MSU has insisted that they didn’t have knowledge of Nassar’s abuse, but six women have come forward to say that they directly reported the abuse to MSU officials, who did nothing with the information. One victim, Larissa Boyce, reported being digitally violated during weekly visits to his clinic in 1997 when she was 16 years old. Boyce claims she told two MSU coaches, including head gymnastics coach Kathie Klages, who then checked with other athletes and found at least one more who said Nassar had molested her as well. Klages told Boyce that an allegation would have “serious consequences” for her, which pressured Boyce into retreat.
Another complaint came in 1999, and then another in 2000, and more in the years that followed. MSU apparently did nothing to stop Nassar or even seriously investigate the charges, in part because of his stature in USA Gymnastics. One accuser went to police instead, only to be told that Nassar’s manipulation of her genital area was a legitimate treatment after conferring with Nassar. Even by 2014, three other MSU doctors ran interference for Nassar when Simon finally got involved, dismissing a complaint from a female student and calling Nassar’s groping “medically appropriate.”
Small wonder that politicians in Michigan have begun to call for Simon to either resign or get fired. This investigation is far from over, but that doesn’t mean that the people who enabled Nassar should remain in place until it finished.