The formerly “world-renowned” USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar is a world-renowned child molester now.
The Harvey Weinstein of gymnastics, he ignored the actual injuries of generations of adolescent athletes while administering sexually abusive “treatments” he so tired of having to hear about in court that he petitioned the judge for relief.
If there were Olympic medals for fortitude, all of the 156 women who stood up in court to accuse him would have taken one home from his sentencing in Lansing, Michigan, on Wednesday.
They could not have asked for a more committed prosecutor than Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis, who raged at Nassar at length on their behalf while he concentrated on one spot on the floor, occasionally pushing his glasses up his nose and scratching it in one movement without ever raising his eyes.
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No need to quote from his play for the pity of his former prey.
But Judge Rosemarie Aquilina — who described herself as a naturalized citizen with five kids, two dogs, live-in parents, several jobs and so little time to watch TV that she’d never heard of the big-deal defendant before — did an honest-to-Jesus mic drop in throwing the poor-me letter Nassar had written back in his direction.
In the few choice passages Aquilina read in court, 54-year-old Nassar described himself as a good doctor because “the treatments worked.” (For him, they did.) He was a guileless victim of manipulative prosecutors, he said, and a man so selfless that his only desire in pleading guilty had been to “minimize stress to everyone.”
Among his victims were gold medalists Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, Jordyn Wieber and McKayla Maroney, who said USA Gymnastics had paid her to stay quiet about the abuse she’s suffered. “I was told to trust him, that he would treat my injuries and make it possible for me to achieve my Olympic dreams.”
Some of those who’d survived Nassar’s violations gasped when Aquilina read that he’d described them in his letter to her as only out for money, attention and revenge. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” he wrote.
So much for his statement of contrition. He turned around and looked at his former patients as he promised to “carry your words with me for the rest of my days.” (Eyes front, Aquilina had told him.)
The judge called Rachael Denhollander, who was the first survivor to come forward, in the IndyStar, and the last to speak in the case, “the bravest person I have ever had in my courtroom.”
“Women and girls banded together to fight for themselves because no one else would do it,” Denhollander told the court.
The 40-to-175-year sentence Aquilina said that it was an “honor and privilege” to impose does not end the suffering Nassar caused.
Nor does it conclude yet another shameful chapter for yet another institution that circled the wagons instead of the victims until they had no choice. Two more institutions did that, including Michigan State University, where Nassar treated school athletes for decades.
Both are belatedly losing sponsors and supporters over that indifference, and Kyle Stephens, who was assaulted by Nassar when she was only 6, publicly thanked her employer, AT&T Inc., for dropping its sponsorship of USA Gymnastics.
“Nobody was protecting us from being taken advantage of,’’ Wieber said last week. “Nobody was ever concerned whether or not we were being sexually abused.”
From the media to the movie business, Congress to the Catholic Church and Penn State to Baylor, that’s been the case.
It’s only when not only the guilty but the complicit, too, are consistently made to pay for looking the other way that things may finally change. Meanwhile, those loudly complaining about how weary they are of having to hear about sexual assault all the time will just have to continue to be brave.