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Ex-USA Gymnastics Doctor Being Sentenced For Sex Assaults. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired January 24, 2018 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[12:30:00] JUDGE ROSEMARIE AQUILINA, INGHAM COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT: You knew you had a problem from a very young age, even before you were a doctor. You could have taken yourself away from temptation. And you did not.
But worse yet, there isn't a survivor who hasn't come in here and said how world renowned you were. I trust what they say. You could have gone anywhere in the world to be treated. You could have gone to any resort, any doctor, place where you can get treatment. In Europe they have all sorts of hidden places for things like this. No one had to know and you could have found some treatment, some help, taken some medicine.
You would have done that if you had cancer. I know you would have. You're about self-preservation. But you decided to not address what's inside you that causes this control urge, that causes you to be a sexual predator.
So your urges escalated, and based on the numbers that we all know go unreported, I can't even guess how many vulnerable children and families you actually assaulted. Your decision to assault was precise, calculated, manipulative, devious, despicable. I don't have to add words because your survivors have said all of that, and I don't want to repeat it.
You can't give them back their innocence, their youth. You can't give a father back his life or one of your victims her life when she took it. You can't return the daughter to the mother, the father to the daughter. You played on everyone's vulnerability. I'm not vulnerable. Not to you. Not to other criminals at that podium.
I swore to uphold the constitution and the law, and I am well trained. I know exactly what to do. And at this time, I'm going to do it, and I want you to know as much as it was my honor and privilege to hear the sister survivors, it is my honor and privilege to sentence you. Because, sir, you do not deserve to walk outside of a prison ever again. You have done nothing to control those urges, and anywhere you walk, destruction will occur to those most vulnerable.
Now I am honoring the agreement. I'm also honoring what's requested of me. And I want you to know I'm not good at math. I have a cheat sheet. I'm only a lawyer. I know that you have a lot of education in physics and math. But I have a cheat sheet. It is my privilege on counts one, two, five, eight, 10, and 18 and 24 to sentence you to 40 years. I'm going to look at my cheat sheet. Forty years, just so you know and you can count it off your calendar, is 480 months.
[12:35:05] The tail end, because I need to send a message to the parole board in the event somehow God is gracious, and I know he is, and you survive the 60 years in federal court first and then you start on my 40 years, you've gone off the page here as to what I'm doing. My page only goes to 200 years. Sir, I'm giving you 175 years, which is 2100 months.
I just signed your death warrant. I need everyone to be quiet. I felt (INAUDIBLE) powers, I told you I'm not nice. I find that you don't get it, that you're a danger. You remain a danger.
I'm a judge who believes in life and rehabilitation when rehabilitation is possible. I have many defendants come back here and show me great things they've done in their lives after probation, after parole. I don't find that's possible with you.
So, you will receive jail credit on counts one, two, five, eight, ten, and 18 of 369 days. On count 24, you will have 370 days jail credit. If you are ever out, which is doubtful, you would be required to register with the Michigan Sex Offender's Registration Act, complying with all the requirements of that act, in addition to global position monitoring system, you would wear a GPS. You will pay restitution in the amount to be determined based on whatever amounts are submitted and your attorneys can ask me for restitution hearing so that I can determine what a reasonable amount is for the victims.
I am leaving restitution open as long as those victims have issues that can be medically documented. You will comply with DNA testing and pay a $60 fee for that. I suspect that was already done. But you owe $60 back to the county for that or law enforcement, whoever. We'll put it in the right pocket.
You must submit to HIV testing and complete counseling associated with HIV and AIDS. You must waive confidentiality and allow test results and medical information obtained from those tests to be released to the court. You will pay $476 in state (INAUDIBLE). You will pay a crime victim's assessment in the amount of $130.
Does counsel wish to address court costs and fines? I don't know his financial state.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judge, he doesn't have any money to pay the court fines.
AQUILINA: I'm not imposing any court costs and fines, and here's the reason. I don't know what he has or what he'll get in the future. The victims deserve the money. The county will survive one way or another.
I'm also going to make recommendations to the Michigan Department of Corrections for mental health treatment, health treatment. I understand he has a medical condition, he need to be allowed to take medicine for that. You should have individual and group counseling, treatment for sexual predators, whatever they allow.
I'm also going to send a message. I'm not sure, but I believe I read an article sir, that you were treating people in prison and don't have a license. Don't commit any more crimes. I know you don't have any more lives to give, but you can't be treating people. You're not a doctor.
So I'm not sure how that's happening. But I wanted to send that message. You have 21 days to appeal, 10 days to request court appointed counsel. Do you acknowledge receipt of your appellate rights?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your honor, I've got the right to appeal and am providing it to my client now.
AQUILINA: Do you acknowledge it?
LARRY NASSAR, FORMER USA GYMNASTICS DOCTOR: Yes, your honor.
AQUILINA: Thank you. Let me just speak to the media.
[12:40:01] Again, I'm just doing my job. I know you all want to talk to me. My secretary has informed me that I have a growing stack of requests from print media, from television, from magazines, from around the world literally. This story is not about me. It never was about me.
I hope I've opened some doors, but you see I'm a little stupid because I thought everybody did what I did, and if they didn't, maybe they ought to, but I do this and have been doing it. And if you don't believe me, the keeper of my words it right by my side and lawyers who are hearing this are shaking their heads saying, yes, I waited too long as she lets everybody talk.
Sometimes people get upset. I don't care. I get paid the same. So I ask to the media who want to talk with me, I'm not going to be making any statements. I know that my office -- and I may have even, I don't know, (INAUDIBLE) couple of weeks conveyed that after this is over, it's just not my story.
After the appellate period runs with victims by my side to tell their stories, I might answer some more questions than what I said on the record. I don't know what more I could possibly say. But I'm not going to talk with any media person until after the appeal period and even then if you talk to me about this case, I will have a survivor with me because it is their story.
So I wanted everybody to hear that from me. I respect all of the media outlets. You have done just a fabulous job here. There hasn't been any commotion or upset by this and I do believe in the First Amendment, so I thank you all for being here because it's an important story for the survivors.
As to today, I know that there are a lot of survivors, family members, husbands, friends, a lot of people in the courtroom, you have voices. I'm going to leave the courtroom. Defendant will leave the courtroom. The attorneys may stay, victims, family members, survivors, you may stay in the courtroom and talk with media. You can have your own press conference right here.
Spur of the moment sometimes works out the best, doesn't it? Again, I won't make a statement until after the appeal period. And again, if there's any survivor then who at that point if somebody wants to talk to me, I'm sure you'll be moved on to another story, but if you're not, please give your names to the victims advocate so that I can contact you because please, media, do not contact me on this story without a survivor. It's their story.
I thank everybody on this case. Sir, I hope somewhere you have heard everybody's words and it really does resonate with you. Anything else for the record?
AQUILINA: All right. So the media is asked to stay here with all those lovely people who may want to speak with you. Thank you. That's all for the record.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All rise.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: I'm John King in Washington. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. You have been watching a powerful sentencing hearing in Lansing, Michigan.
Listening in the end there, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced who sentenced the former USA Gymnastics Larry Nassar to up to 175 years. Quote, I just signed your death warrant, the judge said. That 50- year-old sexually abused girls under the guise of performing medical treatment. Just a powerful hearing.
You see the prosecutor there hugging members of her team, hugging some of the survivors in the courtroom as well. The judge spoke poignantly. The prosecutor spoke poignantly. The defendant spoke very briefly, telling his victims and his survivors that there's no way, there's no way that he could apologize, find the right words for the pain, the trauma, and emotional destruction he caused.
[12:45:01] Now, let's bring CNN Legal Analyst Paul Callan into the conversation.
Paul, earlier in my career, I was in a lot of courtrooms. This was a wow. This was poignant from the beginning. Powerful presentation by the prosecutor saying this must stop, the victims must be believed, this man must never set foot outside of a prison again.
The defense attorney saying they've received death threats for handling this case. Nassar's statement which I would say, Paul, woefully short, said he couldn't find the words for that. And then the wrap-up from the judge was stunning, powerful, and poignant.
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: John, it was a powerful, powerful scene. As a former prosecutor, I've witnessed many sentencings in many cases, murder cases, sex abuse cases, but very few as powerful as this. And I've never really seen a sentence as long as this being imposed, you know, in a plea of guilty situation, as we have here.
The judge said that he's going to serve as much as 175 years in prison. When her sentence is combined with the sentence of the federal court. Remember, he's doing 60 years on a child pornography case that he pled guilty to in federal court. But it was a powerful, eloquent statement by this judge.
KING: And it was remarkable. And Paul, for folks who haven't followed this day to day, dynamics of this case, Larry Nassar pled guilty to seven counts. So the judge was saying as she went through the sentencing that her hands were tied a bit because she wanted to honor and respect the plea agreement. She could not give him a longer sentence because she had seven counts before her. So she gave up to the maximum on each of those.
But it was remarkable as she had with Larry Nassar standing there, you are a sexual predator. You are about self-preservation. I just signed your death warrant. You don't get it. She read scornfully from statements Nassar made early in this case, blaming it on the news media, saying the victims were hyping things, the victims were exaggerating things, that he was giving them necessary vital treatment.
I want you to listen just for a moment here when the judge turned to Nassar after scornfully reading his past statements and saying, you still guilty, sir?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AQUILINA: Would you like to withdraw your plea?
NASSAR: No, your honor.
AQUILINA: Because you are guilty, aren't you? Are you guilty, sir?
NASSAR: I have said my plea exactly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: What were your thoughts as you watched that play out? She clearly wanted to make a point that she was holding him accountable and that she thought as she said at the end, you still don't get it.
CALLAN: Yes, and she gave him an opportunity to indicate that he did get it. And he sort of hedged and just said I've pled guilty. He didn't say I was guilty or I believe I'm guilty.
And, you know, she had a lot of anger, I think, also about something that the audience may not be aware of. And that is, Nassar had sent a letter to her begging to be excused from the victim, or as we call them, survivor statements that were made in court by the many, many women who had the courage to appear in this courtroom. And the judge was very angry about that and said, no, you're going to remain in this courtroom and listen to every single statement of every person you have victimized.
And she also made another statement in the middle of the victim statements in which she said that she was sorry that she was constrained by the Eighth Amendment of the United States constitution. Now, John, that's the --
KING: Paul, I hate to interrupt you.
KING: One of the survivors now speaking in the courtroom. I want to take us there live.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you hope you're going to get more of those answers?
RACHAEL DENHOLLANDER, SEXUAL ABUSE VICTIM: I hope so. It's the biggest sexual assault scandal in history, and we should want to know why it happened. And if we don't, it's not going to get better.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you first started this process back in August of 2016, did you ever think that you would get to this point? And did you think it would turn into what it did?
DENHOLLANDER: You know, again, the number of sexual assault victims Larry had was plain to me. Whether or not anyone would feel safe enough to come forward, that was the wild card.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was there ever a moment where you had to step back and say, oh, my gosh, there really are there many victims, or did you kind of know deep down?
DENHOLLANDER: I knew. Because that's how pedophiles operate. That's how pedophiles operate, and that is why I was convinced even at 15 that there was no way someone hadn't spoken up. There was no way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One hundred and seventy-five years. The right sentence?
DENHOLLANDER: Absolutely. I'm very grateful for Judge Aquilina and the leadership she's shown for all of us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think that justice was --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to move on and talk to many of other victims that are in the courtroom. Again, please forgive the live television moments as we try to crawl around and see what's happening here. Walking through other reporters, walking through other --
KING: You're watching as our local affiliate (INAUDIBLE) walking around to talk to other survivors. You just heard again there from Rachael Denhollander, one of the many sexual assault victims but more importantly sexual assault survivor who came into the courtroom to speak up, to speak up bravely so that Larry Nassar was brought to justice.
[12:50:01] Our Jean Casarez is outside the courtroom. She has been there tracking this remarkable proceeding. Jean, just after the sentencing, I was talking to Paul Callan about just the poignancy and power from the prosecutor and from the judge saying this must stop applauding the survivors for coming forward. And the judge saying I just signed your death warrant. Give us some more on the drama in that courtroom.
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, there's just so many levels because as we heard from each and every survivor as they gave their victim impact statements, we also heard dates. Along the way we heard that in 1997, one of the victims went straight to MSU's gymnastics coach and told her exactly what was happening to her. And you understand what Nassar was doing.
He was telling all of these young women over two decades that this was proven medical treatment. Their parents would be in the room. He would position himself in a way so the parent would not see what he was doing. And he would take his fingers and his hands, go inside these women for this proven medical treatment.
Besides that, he was the Olympic team doctor for over two decades, covering four different Olympics, doing this medically endowed procedure on all of these young women. And that is the issue right here. That is how we got to this courtroom here.
When one of them finally came forward after MSU didn't take what that young woman was saying seriously, after a police complaint was filed in 2004 that went nowhere and finally one young woman, Rachael Denhollander went to the IndyStar in 2016 to publicly say, I was sexually assaulted and that's when everyone else came forward. That's what we've been hearing for the last week.
KING: And Jean, a very important point because the prosecutor in her presentation paid tribute to the investigative journalism, saying this would never have come to light had not these survivors gone to the media and had not the media taken their story seriously. That was part of it. Please stay with me. And Paul Callan is with me as well.
As part of this proceeding, the prosecutor gave a lengthy statement. The defense counsel addressed the court about the plea. And then Larry Nassar was asked if he had anything to say to the survivors in the courtroom, anything t say about the case. Here's his statement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NASSAR: Your words these past several days, their words, your words, have had a significant emotional effect on myself and have shaken me to my core.
I also recognize that what I am feeling pales in comparison to the pain, trauma, and emotional destruction that all of you are feeling. There are no words to describe the depth and breadth of how sorry I am for what has occurred.
An acceptable apology --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, you need to stand at the microphone.
NASSAR: An acceptable apology to all of you is impossible to write and convey. I will carry your words with me for the rest of my days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Jean Casarez, I want to start with you, the reaction to that statement. And again, just to make clear to our viewers who haven't followed the case, the plea agreement was for seven counts, but 156 victim impact statements put on the record as part of this trial. That was a brief words Larry Nassar himself saying he couldn't find the words for a proper apology. I'm not sure he ever could given his behavior.
CASAREZ: Well, that's right. In this plea -- in his statement before the court, the allocution, it appears as though he's apologizing, acknowledging, accepting responsibility. But that's when the judge turned it around to the handwritten letter that she received just days ago saying he mentally couldn't handle this hearing by saying in that letter that it was a medically proven treatment that he did and just everybody had turned against him. That he was not authentic in this plea of apology before the court today.
KING: It was not medicine. It was not treatment, the judge saying. And before Paul Callan, I'll give you the last word. I just want to get back to that point.
Larry Nassar is not getting the last word as in our coverage of this. During the trial, we heard poignantly from some of the survivors, including this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STERLING RIETHMAN, SEXUAL ABUSE VICTIM: You were meant to get caught. You were meant to be locked up for the rest of your life.
DENHOLLANDER: Larry is the most dangerous type of abuser, one who is capable of manipulating his victims through coldly calculated griming methodologies, presenting the most wholesome and caring external persona as a deliberate means to ensure a steady stream of young children to assault.
KAYLEE LORINCZ, SEXUAL ABUSE VICTIM: As I look at you today, I feel nauseous. Twenty minutes went by when you stopped and I thought to myself, it's finally over. But you weren't finished yet. You assaulted me again and again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[12:55:03] KING: I thought it was telling, Paul, and very important the judge, as she sentenced Larry Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison, hope she said, she hoped he never walked outside of a prison again. She said this isn't about me, this is about those women and their powerful stories. CALLAN: You know, I agree, John. And she -- this was a powerful, powerful court proceeding where a message I think was sent by the prosecutor, by the judge to victims of sexual abuse around the country that sometimes justice is slow to arrive, but justice was finally handed out in this Michigan courtroom.
KING: Justice was served on this day. It was a remarkable hearing. The term special place in hell has been tossed around a lot in the town where I work lately. Very appropriate use of it today.
Thanks for joining us today on INSIDE POLITICS. Very important there. Larry Nassar sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison, seven counts on sexual abuse, 156 victim statements in all put into the record there. A remarkable proceeding.
Wolf Blitzer picks up our coverage after a quick break.