Gymnastics doctor complains it's too hard to listen to victim stories

Image: Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor, who pleaded guilt
Nassar speaks to his attorney Shannon Smith on Thursday. Copyright Brendan McDermid Reuters
By Tracy Connor and Courtney McGee with NBC News
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button

Former gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar complained about Judge Rosemarie Aquilina and his mental health in a letter to the court.

Former gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, accused of sexually abusing more than 140 girls and women, picked a fight with the judge overseeing his marathon sentencing hearing.

He lost.

In a six-page single-spaced letter, Nassar complained it was too hard for him to listen to dozens of accusers describe how he abused them under the guise of medical treatments and how it wrecked their lives. He said the judge had turned the proceeding into a "media circus" and put herself in the spotlight.

"Now this is entertaining to me," County Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said as she read from the letter in court on Thursday.

"'Aquilina said if I pass out she'll have the EMTs revive me and prop me up in the witness box.'"

The judge scoffed.

"I suspect you have watched too much television," Aquilina said. "It's delusional. You need to talk about these issues with a therapist and that's not me."

Nassar's attorney declined comment.

Nassar, 54, the former team doctor for USA Gymnastics, has pleaded guilty in Ingham County to molesting seven girls.

His plea agreement allows for for all his accusers to give impact statements, and more than 100 have signed up to appear in the courtroom or, like Olympic gold-medalist McKayla Maroney, have their statements read aloud.

They stand at a podium, often sobbing as they speak, often directly to the defendant. Nassar, wearing blue jail clothing and a hangdog expression, mostly keeps his head and eyes down and sometimes shakes or weeps.

After each statement, Aquilina consoles and applauds the accuser, heaping scorn on Nassar in the process. She's already said she will impose a sentence that ensures he dies in jail.

"The next judge he faces will be God," she told one woman on Wednesday.

"It's delusional. You need to talk about these issues with a therapist and that's not me."

On Thursday, Nassar quietly as Aquilina read out parts of his letter to the court, starting with his complaint about the media coverage.

"I didn't ask any media to be here," she said.

Image: Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor, who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, speaks to his attorney Shannon Smith during his sentencing hearing in Lansing
Nassar speaks to his attorney Shannon Smith on Thursday. Brendan McDermidReuters

Then she turned to an excerpt where Nassar seemed to be upset that more women than the seven in his plea deal were being given their day in court.

"Aquilina is allowing them all to talk," he wrote. "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."

The judge sounded incredulous as she read the words aloud, saying she didn't need the face time.

"I don't have a dog in this fight, sir," she said, adding, "I didn't want even one victim to lose their voice."

"Spending four or five days listening to them is significantly minor considering the hours of pleasure you had at their expense and ruining their lives," she said.

Nassar said in the letter that he passed out twice before his federal sentencing on child pornography charges, which got him 60 years in prison.

"I'm sorry about that, sir. I wish you well," Aquilina said.

She said he was seated in the witness box "not for my entertainment, quite honestly, [but] so that your victims can face you in the eye without turning back constantly."

And, citing his previous fainting episodes, she added: "I could not have you with a heart condition standing for 4 days. That would be cruel and unusual punishment."

Aquilina said she had cut Wednesday's court session short to allow Nassar to meet with mental health services. She asked if they had recommended any accommodations for him, and he said meekly they had not.

Nassar will be sentenced at the conclusion of the hearing, which could go into next week. Five more women have just requested time to speak, bringing the total to 105, prosecutors said. He still faces a sentencing in Eaton County Court, where he pleaded guilty to molesting three more girls.

Share this articleComments