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As Nassar Sentencing Continues, Pressure Grows For Michigan State President To Resign

Editor’s Note: This segment discusses sexual abuse, and contains audio that some listeners may find disturbing or offensive.

There could be a sentence as soon as Wednesday for Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctor who has admitted to using his position to sexually abuse underage girls. More than 120 women have given victim impact statements in court.

Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson speaks with Kate Wells ( @KateLouiseWells), reporter with Michigan Radio.

Interview Highlights

On what it’s been like to watch victim impact statements in court

“It’s unprecedented. How do you describe what it’s like to watch so many women and girls, because some of them are still minors, get up with their families, their moms, their dads, their husbands, and stand just a few feet away from the man who sexually abused them as children? Some of them have been carrying this for 20 years, some of them this happened as recently as 2016, so their experiences are all over the spectrum, but really the only was to describe it is that they have been going through a living hell. There’s really been no case like this before.”

On 15-year-old Emma Ann Miller’s statement

“These women have — and girls, because Emma Ann is 15 — they have gotten up there and they have shared some of the horrific experiences of abuse that they remember. They feel like that is important for people to hear in order to understand what this case really means. And they are calling themselves an army of women. This is not just about Larry Nassar to them. This is about the entire system in the last 20 years, both at Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, of people looking the other way, of telling adults about this for 20 years now and not being believed for 20 years.”

On what might happen to administrators at Michigan State

“So we are seeing the pressure on Michigan State reach a level that we haven’t seen all throughout this case until now. And this has been playing out at Michigan [State] since the end of the summer in 2016. But something about these women coming forward and being heard and not just being a number is really getting people to sit up and pay attention. And they are understanding, in a real way now, that you don’t get to 140, 150 victims without adults looking the other way. What we have seen at places like Michigan State is there was either — these women, like Larissa Boyce were not believed, or they were told they were misunderstanding a medical procedure, and we’re understanding that this is just not about one bad actor. This is about a system that allowed this abuse. There are growing calls for President [Lou Anna] Simon to resign. On Friday, the board of trustees came out and said, ‘Nope, we’ve got full support for President Simon and we still think she’s the right leader.’ ”

On what Larry Nassar is facing with this sentencing

“So with this sentencing he reached a plea deal, that’s how we got to this particular sentencing. He has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting patients under the guise of treatment. The judge is indicating that, right now, she plans to stick to that plea deal, which means the max he could get is 40 years. If she goes above that, if she gives him 125, like the prosecution’s asking for, that gives Nassar the option of withdrawing his guilty plea and potentially putting all of these women through a long jury hearing and trial, which is something that a lot of them want to avoid. But others say, you know, slice it any way you want, 40 years is not enough for what this man did. There is some division around that. But it looks, at least right now, like the judge will stick to 40 years max.”

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