'Sister survivor warriors' come together as one to testify against sports doctor
More than 120 gymnasts have come forward to accuse former sports doctor Larry Nassar of sexual assault. Mr. Nassar currently faces 60 years in prison for child pornography crimes.
| Lansing, Mich.
The judge overseeing the sentencing of disgraced former sports doctor Larry Nassar said Monday that more than 120 girls and women who had given statements so far at the five-day hearing were "sister survivor warriors."
"I want you to know that your face and the face of all of the sister survivor warriors – the whole army of you – I've heard your words," Ingham County circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said after a woman spoke in her Michigan courtroom. "Your sister survivors and you are going through incomprehensible lengths, emotions, and soul-searching to put your words together, to publicly stop [the] defendant, to publicly stop predators, to make people listen."
Mr. Nassar has admitted molesting athletes during medical treatment when he was employed by Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians. Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics on Monday announced the resignations of three key leaders – chairman Paul Parilla, vice chairman Jay Binder, and treasurer Bitsy Kelley – days after former gold medalists Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber said in court that Nassar had sexually assaulted them. Chief executive officer Steve Penny was forced out last year.
On Monday, USA Gymnastics also said it has suspended former United States women's national team coach John Geddert, the owner of the Twistars gymnastics club near Lansing, Mich. It did not disclose its reasons for suspending Mr. Geddert.
Nassar has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison for child pornography crimes. Under a plea deal, he faces a minimum prison sentence of 25 to 40 years in the molestation case. The maximum term could be much higher.
"Larry, how many of us are there? Do you even know?" asked Clasina Syrboby, as she fought back tears while speaking for more than 20 minutes Monday. "You preyed on me, on us. You saw a way to take advantage of your position – the almighty and trusted gymnastics doctor. Shame on you, Larry. Shame on you."
She and other victims also continued their criticism of Michigan State, USA Gymnastics, and the US Olympic Committee for not doing enough to stop Nassar when initial complaints were made years ago. The sentencing hearing will resume Tuesday.
Emma Ann Miller, 15, said the school was still billing her mother for medical appointments in which Nassar molested Ms. Miller as recently as August 2016 – a week before he was fired.
University spokesman Jason Cody told The Associated Press that Miller's allegation was being addressed. "I can tell you that patients of former MSU physician Nassar will not be billed," Mr. Cody said.
Michigan State's gymnastics coach – who is accused of downplaying complaints made by two teens in 1997 – and another university sports doctor quit under pressure last year. But the governing board has stood behind MSU President Lou Anna Simon, despite calls from legislative leaders and others that she resign or be fired.
In her statement to the court, Miller directly addressed Michigan State.
"I, like all those that have spoken, didn't choose this circumstance to have the right to be standing in front of this podium today," she said. "Nassar made that choice for us – your 20-year child-molesting employee."
A Title IX probe conducted by the university cleared Nassar of sexual assault allegations in 2014. At least 12 reported assaults occurred after the investigation ended, according to a university police report that was provided to the FBI for review by the US attorney.
The school let Nassar see patients for 16 months while the campus police also conducted a criminal investigation into the allegations. The local prosecutor declined to charge Nassar.
One of the eight members of Michigan State's governing board said over the weekend that Ms. Simon should quit, saying he did not think she could survive the "public outcry." Board chairman Brian Breslin, however, said all of the other trustees support her.
"We look forward to a prompt and thorough investigation by the Michigan Attorney General's Office to help reassure the public that the university and its leadership have nothing to hide," he said in a written statement Saturday. "As our outside counsel, former US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, has written to the Attorney General, we believe 'the evidence will show that no official believed that Nassar committed sexual abuse prior to newspaper reports in the summer of 2016.' "
This story was reported by The Associated Press.