GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A former elite sports doctor whose sexual assault cases have rocked Michigan State University and the group that trains U.S. Olympic gymnasts was sentenced Thursday to 60 years in federal prison for possessing thousands of images of child pornography.
It’s the first of three prison sentences for Larry Nassar, who will learn his punishment in state court in January after pleading guilty to using his hands to molest girls at his campus office, his home and at a gymnastics club near Lansing, Michigan, sometimes with parents in the room.
Separately, more than 100 women and girls are suing Nassar. Michigan State and USA Gymnastics also are defendants in many cases.
Nassar told U.S. District Judge Janet Neff that he has an addiction.
"You go back and you wonder how I got down this path to begin with," he said. "I really did try to be a good person. … I hope one day I can be forgiven, and I’m going to take every day of your sentence to try to better myself."
Neff followed the government’s recommended sentence, saying Nassar "should never again have access to children."
She said the federal sentence won’t start until he completes his sentences for sexual assault, which effectively means the 54-year-old won’t be free again. Nassar faces at least 25 years in prison in the other cases.
Olympians Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Gabby Douglas say they were victims when Nassar worked for USA Gymnastics and accompanied them to workouts or international events. Maroney was in the courtroom Thursday.
Nassar is a "monster" who "left scars on my psyche that may never go away," she said in a letter to the judge.
The child porn was discovered last year. Nassar acknowledged that he dumped computer hard drives and paid $49 to have a laptop’s memory wiped clean to try to outfox police. The hard drives were found by investigators because the trash truck on his street was late.
In a statement, Michigan State said the 60-year sentence "represents another important step toward justice for the victims." But victims and lawyers have been deeply critical of the school, claiming campus officials failed to recognize years ago that Nassar was a threat.
John Manly, an attorney representing many women and girls in lawsuits, said negotiations with Michigan State and a mediator failed to lead to an agreement this week. Michigan State declined to comment.
"We intend to fight for justice for the victims," Manly said.