Larry Nassar was born in 1963 in Farmington Hills, Michigan. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan and went on to receive a medical degree in osteopathic medicine at Michigan State University in 1993. He began working as an athletic trainer for the USA Gymnastics national team in 1986 and with well-known coach John Geddert at Twistars USA Gymnastics Club in 1988. In 1996 he finished his medical residency at St. Lawrence Hospital in Lancing, Michigan and was appointed as the national medical coordinator for USA Gymnastics. In 1997 Nassar became a team physician and professor at Michigan State. During his career, Nassar worked with many gymnasts and other athletes and traveled to the Olympics with the women’s gymnastics team from 1996 to 2008. However during this time, he also committed hundreds of sexual assaults against girls under his care.
Throughout his career Nassar was followed by complaints of misconduct which were ignored or allegedly hidden by the organizations he was employed by. The first documented claim of abuse was in 1992, when Nassar began to molest a 12-year-old girl. In 1997 parents at Twistars started to voice complaints about Nassar’s conduct with their children, but the complaints were ultimately ignored. In 1997 Larissa Boyce and another athlete told to the Michigan State women’s gymnastics coach Kathie Klages that Nasser had molested them, but no action was ever taken. More women came forward to the university over the years, but again, nothing was done. In 2014, Nassar was investigated by Michigan State after an alumnus accused him of sexually assaulting her during a medical examination, but he was cleared of wrongdoing.
For decades, Nassar’s abuse of hundreds of girls and young women went on unhindered. Nassar was seemingly unstoppable until August 4, 2016, when the Indianapolis Star published an in-depth investigation about the sexual abuse in the USA Gymnastics program. While the report did not name Larry Nassar specifically, the report prompted the U.S. Senate to reach out to USA Gymnastics to urge further investigation. On August 29, 2016, gymnast Rachael Denhollander filed a complaint with Michigan State University against Nasser who sexually assaulted her in 2000 when she was 15. Throughout the fall of 2016, Nassar stepped down or was fired from his positions at Michigan State and USA Gymnastics and on November 22 Nassar was formally charged with 3 counts of first degree criminal sexual abuse in Ingham County, Michigan. At that time there had already been 50 complaints made about Nassar to the Michigan’s Attorney General. On December 16, 2016, Nassar was indicted on federal child pornography charges. The FBI later revealed that Nasser had over 37,000 images of child pornography on his computer and at least one video of him molesting a girl. Nassar was also charged in Eaton County, Michigan.
Ultimately, Larry Nassar accepted plea deals in order to avoid being charged with every complaint made against him which had reached 119. Nassar was charged at three separate trials; a Federal trial for three federal pornography charges, a trial in Ingham County for 7 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and a trial in Eaton County for 3 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison, 40 to 175 years in Ingham County, and 40 to 125 years in Eaton County. Nassar is to serve all three sentences consecutively, ensuring that he will die in prison.
During his trial in Ingham County, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina allowed 156 women to read victim impact statements at Nassar’s sentencing hearing in January 2018. Her decision to let each survivor speak gained widespread attention, but Aquilina maintained that her choice was crucial for the survivors saying, “Part of restitution means making them whole, and making them whole means that they face their devil and tell them exactly what they want so that their healing can begin.” Nassar issued an apology to his victims in court, but most did not believe it. Survivor Alexis Alvarado said of the apology, “It’s just hard to believe an apology like this. Being a doctor, what he was, he went to med school. You know how this can hurt people. You know how this can affect everyone. And if you know that, then why would you do it purposefully? So no, I do not accept it. I do not accept his apology, I don’t think it’s real.”
In July 2018, more than 140 survivors were awarded the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the ESPY Awards. Michigan State University agreed to pay $500 million to 332 of Nassar’s victims in lawsuit settlements. Nassar requested a new sentencing hearing due to perceived bias in Judge Aquilina’s proceedings, but his request was denied.