Larry Nassar Will Serve Up to 175 Years in Federal Prison

Larry Nassar, who sexually assaulted at least 150 women during his time as team doctor for USA Gymnastics and in practice at Michigan State University, has been sentenced at last.

The judge, Rosemarie Aquilina, sentenced Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison, effectively ensuring that he will spend the rest of his life behind bars. It’s an important moment of justice for the young women he assaulted, but Aquilina’s approach also provides insight into how to balance the needs for both healing and justice.

Nassar sexually assaulted girls and young women for decades before finally being called to account. If he thought that pleading guilty last November might result in more lenience, he was in for a surprise — Judge Aquilina wasn’t in the mood.

Aquilina invited any and all victims who wanted to give a statement to do so, opening the floor of her courtroom for chilling, compelling and powerful testimonies – including some from women well-known to the general public, like gymnast Aly Raisman. They told deeply disturbing stories not just about Nassar’s abuse, but also about the larger culture that surrounded it: People knew, and did nothing.

It took a week for those who felt moved to speak to do so, and Nassar reportedly complained about his treatment and expressed outrage at being forced to sit through victim statements.

While he was already sentenced to 60 years for possessing child pornography — a sentence that could drop to 55 with good behavior –  Judge Aquilina’s additional sentence must be served consecutively: Only after serving his time for the child pornography can he start on his 40-175 year sentence. That means Nassar will stay in prison for the rest of his life.

“I just signed your death warrant,” said Judge Aquilina at the sentencing. Strictly speaking, she didn’t — and that’s a good thing. In addition to being inhumane, the death penalty is extremely costly. The real weight of the sentence, though, may have come from the victim statements Nassar was forced to listen to. They’ll haunt him for the rest of his life.

The judge’s approach reflects some of the values of restorative justice — victims often feel like they’ve played a more active role, which helps them heal, when they have an opportunity to address defendants directly.

But the judge didn’t stop with the courtroom, where she was visibly supportive of the women who spoke. Aquilina also reiterated that she wasn’t interested in taking media requests, and that the focus of this story should be on the survivors, not her work on the bench.

Her desire to keep the story on those most affected is commendable, and it speaks to the power of recent conversations about sexual harassment and assault. These conversations have firmly grounded the words of survivors, rather than people talking about them, and advocates hope they become a path forward on the sexual violence epidemic in the United States.

Immediately after the sentencing, the United States Olympic Committee demanded that the entirety of the USA Gymnastics board resign. This reflects considerable criticism regarding the governing body’s apparent inability to identify and stop sexual harassment and assault, though it has been hastily cleaning house thanks to the public attention. The USOC also admitted that it had “failed” athletes and vowed to do better in the future.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

63 comments

Marie W
Marie W3 months ago

Thanks

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John B
John B7 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Past Member
Past Member 8 months ago

good to see

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Angela J
Angela J8 months ago

Thanks

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sharon b
sharon b8 months ago

Judge Aquilina deserves the utmost respect for her handling of this case. My heart goes out to the victims in this case.

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Tanya W
Tanya W8 months ago

May all those affected by abuse receive all the help and healing they need.

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Tanya W
Tanya W8 months ago

Wonderful news!!!

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R8 months ago

Thank you for posting.

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Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper8 months ago

Noted

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Liliana G
Liliana Garcia8 months ago

Thanks for this well balanced article which treats a very emotional subject. The man got what he deserved. Others must also face their share of guilt through their inaction.

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