Ex-US gymnastics doctor confronted by abuse victims in court
Larry Nassar told that little girls grow into ‘strong women that return to destroy your world’
One of the victims of USA Gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar, who has pleaded guilty to molesting dozens of girls, has blamed the disgraced doctor for her father’s suicide.
Kyle Stephens told Nassar’s sentencing hearing in a courtroom in Michigan that the doctor, a family friend, began molesting her when she was six and that her parents did not believe her when she told them.
“You convinced my parents that I was a liar,” Ms Stephens said. “Little girls don’t stay little forever...They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world.”
Once her father realised she was telling the truth, he took his own life, Ms Stephens said.
Ms Stephens was the first of nearly 100 women who are expected to provide victim-impact statements during the four-day hearing.
Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence for Nassar (54), who served as the USA Gymnastics physician through four Olympic Games.
Several victims gave emotional testimony on Tuesday and asked Ingham County Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina to impose the maximum sentence.
Donna Markham, the mother of Chelsea Markham, testified that her daughter was molested by Nassar after seeking treatment for a back injury she suffered in a fall off a balance beam when she was 10, Sports Illustrated reported.
She said Chelsea never recovered from the abuse and it led her to a life of drugs, culminating with her in suicide in 2009 at age 23.
Outside the courtroom, Markham told reporters she felt compelled to speak for her daughter. “I wanted him (Nassar)to hear what happened to my daughter...the fact that he started the process of her self-destruction,” according to video posted on the Lansing State Journal website.
Nassar is already serving a 60-year-sentence after pleading guilty in July in federal court to child pornography charges. He sat with his head down on Tuesday and did not appear to make eye contact with the victims when they addressed him directly.
At a November hearing when he pleaded guilty to multiple counts of sexual assault, Nassar apologised for his crimes, the Lansing State Journal reported.
Nassar was the team physician for the Michigan State University gymnastics and women’s crew teams, as well as an associate professor at MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles said on her Twitter account this week that she, too, was abused by Nassar. An attorney for Nassar, Matt Newburg, declined to comment on Biles’ accusations.
Raisman tweeted Monday she will not attend the sentencing because it was “too traumatic,” but a letter she wrote will be read in court.
Biles and Raisman are among a number of victims who accuse USA Gymnastics and Michigan State of not properly vetting Nassar.
Both organisations previously said they were unaware of Nassar’s crimes. In March, USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny resigned amid criticism of the organisation’s handling of the scandal. - Reuters