Former USA Gymnastics doctor sentenced to 60 years in federal child pornography case
Larry Nassar, the former MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor whose work took him to multiple Olympic games, was sentenced Thursday to 60 years in federal prison on child pornography charges to which he's admitted.
"You have to wonder whether he felt he was omnipotent, whether he felt he was getting away with something so cleverly," said U.S. District Judge Janet Neff.
"He has demonstrated that he should never again have access to children."
He was sentenced to 20 years on each of three counts, to be served consecutively. Neff also stated that his federal time would be served consecutive to his state sentences for sexual assault. He has pleaded guilty to 10 sexual assault charges and will be sentenced next month.
In court filings last week, Nassar's attorneys had asked Neff to show leniency, saying the doctor had worked toward redemption by helping fellow inmates and taking Bible classes since his arrest nearly a year ago.
Federal prosecutors, however, had argued for the maximum 60 years, saying Nassar "poses an immense risk to the community" and quoting one victim who said the 54-year-old "will not hesitate to reoffend" if he's ever freed.
Nassar pleaded guilty in July to three federal charges after investigators said he possessed at least 37,000 graphic videos and images of child pornography, including images of prepubescent children engaged in sex acts.
He also pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for trying to destroy the evidence. The U.S. Attorney's Office said Nassar paid to have his work laptop wiped clean and threw away hard drives containing the pornography. Investigators were only able to obtain those hard drives at Nassar's Holt property because the garbage truck happened to be running late that day, according to court records.
Some of the videos appeared to show Nassar assaulting young girls in a pool, investigators said. As part of a deal with federal prosecutors to obtain his guilty plea, prosecutors agreed they would not charge him with alleged sexual exploitation of children in relation to four reported victims.
Thursday's sentencing ends one of three criminal cases against Nassar. He's also pleaded guilty to sexual assault charges in both Ingham and Eaton counties and could be sentenced to up to life in prison in those cases when he's sentenced next month.
In still-pending lawsuits related to Nassar's admitted crimes, more than 140 women or girls have said Nassar assaulted them, often during medical appointments.
Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics and Twistars, a Dimondale gymnastics club where Nassar often worked, are named as defendants in the lawsuits.
Nassar, led in cuffs out of the courtroom at the Gerald R. Ford Federal Building in downtown Grand Rapids on Thursday, was for decades an esteemed sports medicine doctor. USA Gymnastics sent him to almost every summer Olympic Games, from 1996 in Atlanta — where he was photographed in the iconic image of an injured Kerri Strug being helped off a platform — to London in 2012.
He started working at MSU, his alma mater, in 1997.
His public downfall began in September 2016, when the Indianapolis Star named Nassar in a report on USA Gymastics' lackluster response to allegations of assault. Later reports by the State Journal identified similar shortcomings at MSU: Between 1997 and 2015, at least seven women or girls say they raised concerns about Nassar's actions to coaches, trainers, police or university officials.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who is prosecuting Nassar on the state charges in Ingham and Eaton counties, earlier this week asked MSU to release the findings of its internal investigation into the way university officials handled the allegations.
Nassar left USA Gymastics in 2015. MSU fired him in September 2016. He lost his medical license earlier this year.