More than 120 girls and women, including former Olympic gold medalists, have confronted Larry Nassar or had statements read on their behalf over five emotional days of sentencing.
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A former elite gymnast said Tuesday that a sports doctor who treated Olympic athletes overlooked what turned out to be a broken leg while he molested her in the basement of his home, one of the latest victims to testify at a Michigan sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar.
Isabell Hutchins practiced for weeks at a Lansing-area gymnastics club and even competed at national events despite acute leg pain as a teen in 2011. She said Nassar did nothing to encourage her to get help and instead molested her during late-night appointments at his home.
“You were never a real doctor. You did not heal me. You only hurt me,” Hutchins told Nassar, who was seated a few feet away in the Ingham County courtroom as the sentencing phase reached a sixth day.
Nassar has admitted sexually assaulting athletes when he was employed by Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, which is the sport’s national governing organization and trains Olympians. His accusers said he would use his ungloved hands to penetrate them, often without explanation, while they were on a table seeking treatment for a variety of injuries.
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The accusers, many of whom were children, said they trusted Nassar to treat them properly, were in denial about what was happening or were afraid to speak up. He sometimes used a sheet or his body to block the view of any parent in the room.
“I’d been told during my entire gymnastics career to not question authority,” Hutchins said.
Nassar, 54, pleaded guilty to assaulting seven people in the Lansing area, but the sentencing hearing has been open to anyone who said they were a victim. More than 150 women and girls have confronted him in court or had a statement read on their behalf since Jan. 16.
Judge Rosemarie Aquilina will sentence Nassar on Wednesday after hearing from a few more accusers. Under a plea deal, he faces a minimum of 25 to 40 years behind bars, although the actual punishment could be much higher. He already has been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography crimes.
The mother of a victim, Anne Swinehart, beseeched those following the case to “quit shaming and blaming the parents.”
“Trust me,” she said, “you would not have known, and you would not have done anything differently. So stop.”
Aquilina, who has made it a practice to praise each speaker, tried to ease Swinehart’s feelings about letting her daughter down.
“The red flags may have been there, but they were designed to be hidden. Leave the blame here with him,” the judge said of Nassar.
She subsequently heard from Mattie Larson, a former member of the national gymnastics team, who said Nassar’s fingers “always seemed to find a way” to her genitals, even when he was supposed to be treating her for ankle and foot injuries.
Some of the accusers have criticized Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee for not doing enough to stop Nassar, and Larson also gave an unflattering portrayal of the Karolyi ranch outside Huntsville, Texas, where the national team trained. She said it was very remote, the “perfect environment” for Nassar and abusive coaches “to thrive.”
USA Gymnastics last week said the ranch would no longer serve as the national training center, and the NCAA confirmed late Tuesday that it had sent a letter of inquiry to Michigan State regarding potential rules violations related to Nassar’s assaults. Among his victims were former Michigan State student-athletes.
The opening of the NCAA investigation was initially reported by The New York Times.
Meanwhile, a senior member of Michigan State’s governing board said President Lou Anna Simon will not be forced out over the Nassar scandal — “period.” Joel Ferguson said she’s been the best leader in his 30 years as a trustee.
“There’s so many more things going on at the university than just this Nassar thing,” Ferguson told radio station WVFN.
He suggested victims who are suing Michigan State will be compensated for the acts of a “pervert.” A former federal prosecutor hired by the school has said there is no evidence that campus officials knew what Nassar was doing, although some victims said they complained years ago.
Later Tuesday, The Detroit Free Press reported that Ferguson apologized for his comments through a spokeswoman, who said he “deeply regrets the inadvertent comment” that “trivialized the experience of the victims of Larry Nassar.”
White reported from Detroit. Associated Press writer David Eggert in Lansing contributed to this report.