LANSING, Mich. – U.S. Olympian McKayla Maroney said being sexually assaulted by a Michigan sports doctor who molested her and other gymnasts scarred her mind in ways that may never heal.
Dr. Larry Nassar won’t be sentenced until next week to accommodate the many victims who want to speak. Since Tuesday, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina has listened to more than 60 who were molested after seeking his help for injuries, including a statement from Maroney that was read by a prosecutor on Thursday.
“Dr. Nassar was not a doctor,” said the 2012 Olympic gold and silver medalist. “He left scars on my psyche that may never go away.”
USA Gymnastics in 2016 reached a financial settlement with Maroney that barred her from making disparaging remarks. But the organization this week said it would not seek any money for her “brave statements.”
As the hearing was happening Thursday, USA Gymnastics announced that it was ending its long relationship with the Karolyi Ranch, the Huntsville, Texas, home of former national team coordinator Martha Karolyi and her husband, Bela. The announcement came three days after Olympic champion Simone Biles expressed dismay at having to attend camps there, where she says Nassar sexually abused her.
Aquilina started Thursday’s proceedings by saying Nassar had written a letter fearing that his mental health wasn’t strong enough to sit and listen to a parade of victims. The judge dismissed it as “mumbo jumbo.”
“Spending four or five days listening to them is minor, considering the hours of pleasure you’ve had at their expense, ruining their lives,” Aquilina said.
Nassar, 54, faces a minimum sentence of 25 to 40 years in prison for molesting girls at Michigan State University and his home. He also was a team doctor at Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians. He’s already been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography crimes.
A 2000 Olympian, Jamie Dantzscher, looked at Nassar and said, “How dare you ask any of us for forgiveness?”
“Your days of manipulation are over,” she said. “We have a voice. We have the power now.”
Nassar wasn’t the only target. Victims also criticized Michigan State and USA Gymnastics. Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon attended part of the session Wednesday. The school is being sued by dozens of women, who say campus officials wrote off complaints about the popular doctor.
“Guess what? You’re a coward, too,” current student and former gymnast Lindsey Lemke said Thursday, referring to Simon.
Blocks away at the state Capitol, three legislative leaders on Thursday called for Simon to resign or be fired by the board of trustees, joining a fourth leading legislator who had previously taken that stance.
“It is clear that a lack of leadership amongst Michigan State University’s highest ranks allowed victims to suffer in silence for far too long,” said state House Democratic Leader Sam Singh, who is from East Lansing, where the school is located.
University spokesman Jason Cody said the board appreciates the lawmakers’ opinions but continues to support Simon.
During the sentencing hearing, the judge has been praising each speaker and criticizing Nassar, whom she described as a “monster” who is “going to wither” like the wicked witch in “The Wizard of Oz.” At another point, Aquilina said she would allow someone “to do to him what he did to others” if the U.S. Constitution allowed cruel punishment.
Some experts believe the judge’s comments could create an issue for appeal after Nassar is sentenced.
“Judges are human beings, too,” said Victoria Vuletich, who teaches ethics at WMU-Cooley Law School. “And too often judges fall prey to the allure of the cameras and media attention and forget their roles.”
On Jan. 31, Nassar will get another sentence for sexual assaults at a Lansing-area gymnastics club in a different county.
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