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UPDATE: Prosecutor seeks maximum sentence for Nassar, as his family pleads for leniency

Larry Nassar in court with his attorneys, Shannon Smith and Matthew Newburg.
Kate Wells
Michigan Radio

As she prepares to sentence a former Olympic gymnastics and Michigan State University sports doctor for child pornography possession next week, federal Judge Janet Neff is getting a picture of two very different Larry Nassars.

There’s the man his siblings and friends describe in their letters: a “gentle hearted,” “devout Catholic” who put all his energies into healing athletes and advocating for his autistic daughter. They describe the kind of guy who’d “run across the street barefoot in the winter to come to the aid of a neighbor” having a heart attack, and spent the last year in jail talking daily to his brother in law, writing a book, and helping inmates getting their GEDs.

“Your Honor, I would like the court to know that I love Larry Nassar very much,” his brother in law wrote. “I will always support him through these trials and tribulations.”

Then there’s the Larry Nassar described by federal prosecutors: a man with a “long history of hands-on sexual assault against children,” who possessed some 37,000 images of child porn, including images depicting “children as young as infants.”

Nassar should get the maximum 60 years in prison, writes Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Lewis in a presentencing memo to Judge Neff, because of the “scope and duration of [his] sexual assaults against children and vulnerable patients, and the magnitude of harms he inflicted on his victims.”

Nassar recently pleaded guilty in Eaton and Ingham Counties to multiple first degree charges of criminal sexual misconduct, admitting to the court that he digitally penetrated patients under the guise of treatment.

“Larry Nassar is a predator without boundaries … If he is ever allowed to reenter society he will not hesitate to reoffend,” one victim writes in the prosecution’s presentencing memo. “I implore you to do your part to exercise your power to the fullest extent. Show all the predators watching that we as a judicial system and community will no longer tolerate this behavior.”

Update: December 6th, 2017 at 3:45 pm 

Federal Judge Janet Neff says while she won't allow victims to make impact statements during Thursday's hearings, she does consider their stories - and Nassar's history of sexually abusing minors - to be relevant here. 

Survivors will have an opportunity to make statements in “multiple state criminal cases and multiple civil lawsuits,” Neff says in an order issued November 30th.
 “Their voices will, and properly should, echo through the halls of justice for years to come,” Neff writes. Instead, Neff says, she believes this sentencing hearing needs to focus on the federal child pornography crimes, and the victims of that child pornography don’t have a voice. 
Some of the women who wished to make a statment during the hearing, including former Olympian McKayla Maroney, will attend still attend court on Thursday and give a press conference afterwards. Maroney's attorneys released her victim impact statement Wednesday, which reads, in part: 

"Dr Nassar...is, was, and forever shall be, a child molester, and a monster of a human being. End of story! He abused my trust, he abused my body and he left scars on my psyche that may never go away. It all started when I was 13 or 14 years old, at one of my first National Team training camps, in Texas, and it didn’t end until I left the sport. It seemed whenever and wherever this man could find the chance, I was “treated.” It happened in London before my team and I won the gold medal, and It happened before I won my Silver Medal. For me, the scariest night of my life happened when I was 15 years old. I had flown all day and night with the team to get to Tokyo. He’d given me a sleeping pill for the flight, and the next thing I know, I was all alone with him in his hotel room getting a “treatment.” I thought I was going to die that night."

This comes as mediation ended today in a lawsuit filed by more than 100 women abused by Nassar, against Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics, and others they say should have protected them from abuse. 

“MSU entered mediation in good faith, but as a public institution, it must be a responsible steward of its resources," says MSU spokesman Jason Cody. "As we remain in civil litigation on the Nassar case, it is not appropriate or fair for MSU to comment in detail out of respect for the process and everyone involved.”

"I do think that it's important to understand that this mediation was voluntary - I see the media is describing it as a failure, and so on," says civil attorney James White. "But it was voluntary, and for that reason, I don't think the community should think that there will not be another to come to some settlement without a jury trial. But at this point, we are preparing to put this matter in front of a jury." 

White says the next step is for both sides to meet with a judge and lay out a schedule for upcoming legal proceedings, including the discovery process, when attorneys are able to interview witnesses. 

Correction: a previous version of this article incorrectly stated Judge Janet Neff would allow 6 women and girls to make a victim impact statement during the sentencing hearing. While Judge Neff says she will "fully take the conduct suffered by these victims into account in sentencing," she is not allowing them to make in-person statements. The prosecution has filed summaries of these assaults with Judge Neff when they requested to speak at the sentencing, which she says she will take into account. 

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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