In a letter submitted to his judge on January 18th, accused serial molester Larry Nassar said that listening to the impact statements of his alleged victims is “detrimental to his mental health.”
Nassar, a disgraced former sports doctor, has pleaded guilty to molesting seven girls during his medical practice with Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics. The prosecution alleged that he assaulted his victims, mostly female athletes, under the guise of giving them medical help. Over 140 women have accused him of sexual assault, and Judge Rosemarie Aquilina permitted them all to speak during the trial.
In a six-page, handwritten note that Nassar gave Judge Aquilina on January 18th, he accused the judge of putting on a “’four-day media circus” for her own personal gain. “Aquilina is allowing them all to talk,” Nassar said, in his letter. “She wants me to sit in the witness box next to her for all four days so the media cameras will be directed at her.” He also claimed that “listening to impact statements is detrimental to his mental health.”
Judge Aquilina read the note out to the courtroom, then gave a ten-minute response where she refuted Nassar’s complaints. “This isn’t worth the paper it’s written on, there’s no truth in there, it’s delusional,” she said, before pointing out that he agreed to listen to all the victims’ statements as part of his plea deal. Responding to his accusations of dragging out the case longer than necessary, she reiterated that she would continue the case until every woman accusing him of sexual assault got to speak. “’I don’t have a dog in this fight, sir,” she said. “I didn’t want even one victim to lose their voice.”
But Aquilina reserved her harshest criticism for Nassar’s complaints about his mental health. “You may find it harsh that you are here listening. But nothing is as harsh than what your victims endured for thousands of hours at your hands,” she said. “Spending four or five days listening to them is significantly minor considering the hours of pleasure you’ve had at their expense.” She also mentioned that she had cut the previous day’s court session short so that Nassar could speak to mental health professionals, and asked if they had recommended accommodations for him. He said that they had not.
Nassar’s accusers have many famous female athletes among their numbers, including Olympians Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney. There was some concern over whether Maroney would be able to testify, as her 2016 settlement with USA gymnastics included an NDA with a $100,000 fine if she spoke up. But last week, USA Gymnastics told E! News that they would not enforce the fine. Although Maroney was unable to attend the trial, Prosecutor Angela Povilaitis read her victim impact statement. According to the statement, Nassar’s abuse “started when I was 13 or 14 years old … and it didn’t end until I left the sport.”
Maroney’s statement also asked a question echoed by many of Nassar’s alleged victims: “How could have Larry Nassar been allowed to assault so many women and girls for more than two decades?” She claimed that the three organizations he worked heavily with – USA Gymnastics, Michigan State and the US Olympic Committee – were responsible for “enabling him.”
And Maroney wasn’t the only victim to blame these organizations. Lindsey Lemke, a former Michigan State gymnast, criticized USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny and club coach John Geddert for their nonintervention. Olivia Cowan called MSU’s president “a coward” for skipping the hearings. “Where were you when we needed you?” she said of top MSU officials. “If you had only believed the women who brought complaints forward.”
After every victim impact statement, Judge Aquilina spoke to the women and girls individually, saying that their voices were important and that they were strong for coming forward. Speaking to sixteen-year-old Chelsea Zerfas, who took the stand on January 22nd, she said, “It is so important what you’ve done. I am so very proud of you. This doesn’t define you. This strengthens you. Congratulations, ma’am.”
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