Read Judge Janice Cunningham’s statement to Larry Nassar
EATON COUNTY , Mich. — The Michigan judge presiding over Larry Nassar’s third sentencing hearing in as many months blasted the former USA Gymnastics doctor as she sentenced him Monday to up to 125 years in prison for criminal sexual conduct.
Eaton County Circuit Court Judge Janice Cunningham told Nassar she doesn’t believe he can be rehabilitated, citing his methodical planning and the effort he put into gaining the trust of his victims’ families. “I am not convinced that you truly understand that what you did was wrong,” she told the disgraced doctor.
Here are Cunningham’s full remarks:
“The trial court’s objective in sentencing a defendant is for me to tailor a penalty that is appropriate to the seriousness of the offense and the criminal history of the offender. The framework of an appropriate sentence consists of four basic considerations: the likelihood or potential that the offender could be reformed, the need to protect society, the penalty and consequence appropriate to the offender’s conduct, and the goal of deterring others from similar conduct.
‘I do not believe there is a likelihood that you could be reformed’
In looking at the first factor that I must consider, the likelihood or potential that the offender could be reformed, there are no facts on this record nor has the court been provided with any basis to believe that this defendant could be reformed. In fact, just the opposite exists. The defendant methodically planned and carried out years of molestation against children, by gaining not only their trust, but the trust of the adults and the institutions who would have been there to protect them. The defendant also molested adults who trusted him based upon his reputation and credentials.
Furthermore, when the defendant was interviewed in the Eaton County Jail for the presentence investigation, he did assert that, when he pled guilty and stated his acts were not for a legitimate medical purpose, that that was not accurate. This was after the defendant had sat in the Ingham County courtroom and listened to the statements of 156 women and girls that he molested.
Now, I recognize that the defendant has since reaffirmed his plea agreement and the statements that he made in support of his plea agreement. But I am not convinced that you truly understand that what you did was wrong, and the devastating impact that you have had on the victims, their families and friends. Clearly, you are in denial. You don’t get it, and I do not believe there is a likelihood that you could be reformed.
‘Society must be protected from Larry Nassar’
The second factor the court is to consider is the need to protect society. There is absolutely no question that society must be protected from Larry Nassar. It is unfathomable to think about the number of victims that would have been spared had authorities acted upon the complaints received years ago. But that is a discussion for a different time and a different place. Today, the issue for this court, the responsibility of this court, is to exercise the authority that I do have to protect society from you, which is what I intend to do.
The third factor is to consider the penalty or the consequence appropriate to the offender’s conduct. The offender’s conduct has been described in this courtroom, and the impact of that conduct has been shared with the court. I have heard from individuals that participated in gymnastics, soccer, figure skating, rowing, softball, cheerleading, wrestling, diving, dancers, track and field and others who were not in sports but had suffered back, knee or other injuries.
The conduct of the defendant has robbed these girls and women of one of the most truly important human qualities: trust. Many have struggled not just to trust men in general, but it has impacted their relationships with their fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, husbands, boyfriends. This is because of the grooming done by the defendant. The defendant getting both the victim and their families to trust him, leaving each of them to question ‘If Larry was nice and I trusted him, how can I be sure others that are nice to me will not hurt me?’
It is heart-wrenching to hear from mothers afraid for their children that many of the normal motherhood-childhood experience is being overshadowed — overshadowed by a fear and an anxiety that they have for the well-being and safety of their children, caused by your acts.
‘Your conduct … has shaken their faith’
The conduct of the defendant has caused suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, nightmares, eating disorders, migraines, lack of concentration, self-harming, anger, confusion, loss of self-worth, panic attacks, feelings of humiliation, guilt, embarrassment and an addiction to prescription medications.
Each and every one of those individuals suffers from some level of post-traumatic stress syndrome (disorder).
Your conduct to get into a position of power at institutions like Michigan State University, USA Olympics and the gymnastic club, has shaken their faith. And because they were required in many instances to only see the defendant as their doctor, or some did seek him out because of his reputation as being the best, their physical injuries were in effect either not treated or not treated properly.
Many have undergone numerous surgeries and are still in pain due to not being treated properly. The results for some of these victims will be lifelong physical ailments.
The depth of the tragedy is incomprehensible. It spans the country and the world. It has impacted women, children and families of varying ages, races and walks of life. Individuals that have suffered physical and emotional harm as a result of your actions live all over the country and the world. I have heard statements of individuals that live in Michigan, Delaware, Arizona, Colorado, Ohio, Florida, Nevada, Chile, London and France. It is also evident that there are an infinite number of victims that still have not been heard from or counted.
‘Each voice and each story does make a difference’
Your criminal conduct did not just hurt the victims, but it also hurt everyone who cared about them. Your conduct has impacted every aspect of the lives of each of the women and the young girls. I have heard and considered each of their stories. Their stories are not redundant, even though many of the descriptions of the grooming by the defendant were eerily similar. One victim made the observation that often one victim is seen as a tragedy, but 100 victims are seen as a statistic. That concern is understandable. It is not true in this courtroom. The ramifications of each person that you meet, and each person’s thoughts and feelings, are important. Each voice and each story does make a difference.
After listening to all of these statements, consideration on this factor is difficult. What is the appropriate consequence or penalty for your conduct? Your conduct, when considered and looked at from the perspective of the victims and their families, can only conjure up thoughts of public punishment and retaliation.
When a crime involves a child, when it involves an adult harming a defenseless child, it is only natural to think in terms of an eye for an eye and to want revenge. You are a doctor. You took an oath to do no harm and you have harmed over 256 women … and that is beyond comprehension.
You will not be able to shut out their words, judge says
But from the eyes of the court, and from the justice system, the role of the court is to determine an appropriate penalty or consequence within our justice system, that is allowed as an appropriate consequence. Locking up an individual so they can never harm anyone again, and taking away their freedom, is an appropriate consequence for a person like the defendant.
You have lived an idolized life, you were a prominent doctor in our society, you were a member of an Olympic team. You have been pampered and lived a high-class lifestyle. And now, the result will be spending the rest of your life in a small prison cell. I am sure that is unthinkable to you. But you will be left to sit there with only the memories of destroying your own family, and I do not believe that you will have the ability to shut out the words of the children and the young women and the adults who trusted you, and who you let down. That will be your lifetime consequence.
The other goal the court has to consider is deterring others from this type of conduct. The sentence in this case must send a message. If you molest and sexually abuse children and women, if you use your position of trust and authority to gain their confidence and then you betray them in the worst way possible, the result will be that you will spend the rest of your life in prison.
Now, the sentencing guidelines in this case were actually for a minimum of 108 to 180 months. However, count one did carry with it a statutory minimum of 25 years. Further, as I have stated previously, the parties’ sentencing agreement is that the minimum would be for 25 to 40 years, to be set at the court’s discretion. But the court must also set a maximum number of years. I have heard it has been reported — it’s somewhat confusing — that the defendant could receive life. That is not accurate based upon the agreement. Also, it is ironic, because if the defendant were to be sentenced to life, he would actually be eligible for parole at some point. When the court sets a maximum number of years, the defendant must serve that number of years before he is eligible for parole.
The Michigan Department of Corrections has requested a maximum number of years of 100, and you have just heard the attorney general request 125 years.
So, considering my analysis of the sentencing goals as my guide, along with the sentencing guideline, the attorney general’s sentencing memorandum, the presentence investigation and report, and the comments of Ms. Povilaitis, Mr. Newburg (prosecutor and defense attorney), and the defendant, it is the sentence of this court — and you may stand, sir — you will serve 40 to 125 years in the Michigan Department of Corrections.
I believe the sentence is proportionate to the seriousness of the circumstances surrounding the offenses and of the offender. I am also required to inform you that, should something happen and you would be released, that you must register as required by the Michigan Sex Offender Registration Act, and comply with all requirements of that act. You must submit to global positioning system monitoring and comply with all the requirements of the system as directed by your field agent. You must submit to HIV testing and complete counseling regarding HIV and AIDS. You do owe $204 in state costs, $130 private assessment, $500 in court costs.
You will be subject to lifetime electronic monitoring pursuant to Michigan law. And the issue of restitution will remain open, to be determined within the next three months. This sentence is to be served concurrent to Ingham County Court docket 17-526FC and is consecutive to the federal court case.
Because you entered a plea, you do have the right to seek leave to have your sentence reviewed on appeal. If you cannot afford appellate counsel, one will be appointed for you. If you wish to exercise that right, you must do so in writing within 42 days of today’s date.
Matthew Newburg: Your honor, he’s received his notice of appellate rights. I’m providing that to the court staff.
Judge Cunningham: “Ladies and gentlemen: this now ends the criminal legal proceedings involving Larry Nassar. I realize that it does not end the emotional physical suffering he has caused. I am in awe of each of you, and I appreciate your efforts to provide me with your statements, flying in from Europe, all over the country, submitting videos, taking time off work, missing classes. You basically put your lives on hold. You will always be in my thoughts and prayers. That is all.”