WASHINGTON, Dec 9, (Agencies): Former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar – accused of sexually assaulting more than 100 young girls in his care, including members of the gold-medal winning US Olympic team – was sentenced to 60 years in prison on Thursday for child pornography.
The 54-year-old Nassar, who is facing sentencing next month on separate sexual assault charges, pleaded guilty in July to three counts of possessing child pornography.
The doctor, who worked at Michigan State University in addition to USA Gymnastics, was found to be in possession of more than 37,000 graphic videos and images of child pornography on his computer hard drives.
He was given the maximum 20 years in prison on each count by US District Judge Janet Neff at a federal court hearing in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“He has demonstrated that he should never again have access to children,” Neff was quoted by the local Lansing State Journal newspaper as saying.
“You have to wonder whether he felt he was omnipotent, whether he felt he was getting away with something so cleverly,” she added.
Nassar said in court he was ashamed of his actions and had lost everything.
“You go back and you wonder how I got down this path to begin with,” the Journal quoted him as telling the judge.
“I’m going to take every day of your sentence to try to better myself.”
Meanwhile, a former federal prosecutor hired by Michigan State University said there’s no evidence that school officials knew a campus doctor was sexually abusing young female athletes.
Patrick Fitzgerald made the disclosure in a letter to state Attorney General Bill Schuette, who had asked for the university’s internal report on Dr. Larry Nassar. Fitzgerald said there is no report or “Fitzgerald findings.” But he said Michigan State is “ready, willing and able to cooperate” with any inquiry by state or federal authorities.
Fitzgerald’s letter was released Friday by Schuette, a day after Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in prison for possessing child pornography and destroying evidence. He’s awaiting prison sentences in state court for molesting girls, especially gymnasts, who needed help with injuries in the Lansing area.
Nassar, 54, worked at Michigan State and at Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians. Olympians McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas say they were among his victims as teens.
“It is clear that Nassar fooled everyone around him — patients, friends, colleagues and fellow doctors at MSU,” said Fitzgerald, who built a crime-busting reputation as US attorney in Chicago.
“While many in the community today wish that they had identified Nassar as a predator, we believe the evidence in this case will show that no one else at MSU knew that Nassar engaged in criminal behavior,” he wrote Wednesday.
Fitzgerald said it’s “just flat wrong” for people to assume that university administrators “behaved like criminals in a cover-up.”
The attorney general’s office is reviewing the letter to “evaluate our next steps,” said Andrea Bitely, a spokeswoman for Schuette, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor.
Fitzgerald said part of his job is to provide advice to Michigan State in lawsuits related to Nassar’s actions. Indeed, the university is a defendant in many cases filed by more than 100 women and girls who say they were assaulted by the doctor.
An attorney for the victims, John Manly, said Fitzgerald’s affiliation with the school means his voice is not truly independent.
“If there’s no report, there’s no investigation,” Manly said Friday. “What the university hired Mr. Fitzgerald to do is to effectively close the gates and bar the door and not let anyone know what occurred.
Mr Fitzgerald has never spoken to any of the victims.”
Manly said athletes who were uncomfortable with Nassar years ago reported their concerns to university staff but nothing happened. He renewed his call for an independent probe.
Gretchen Whitmer, a Democratic candidate for governor who briefly served as a Lansing-area prosecutor, wants state police to look at how Michigan State dealt with Nassar.
Without an independent investigation at Michigan State, “I don’t believe any of the victims will have confidence that we’ve got all of the facts,” Whitmer said.