CHARLOTTE, Mich. -- There were silent hugs and quiet tears in the gallery of an Eaton County courtroom Monday morning as convicted sexual predator Larry Nassar spent what will likely be his final seconds in a public setting with his head down and hands folded in his lap. Minutes earlier, Nassar told a room full of some of the women he manipulated and abused that their words would stay with him in prison for the rest of his life.
Judge Janice Cunningham sentenced Nassar to a minimum of 40 years and a maximum of 125 years for his crimes in Eaton County. Her sentence was the third and final punishment Nassar will receive in criminal court. The former Michigan State and USA Gymnastics team doctor spent the last several weeks in Michigan courtrooms listening to some of the hundreds of women who say he used his notoriety and authority as a famous physician to sexually abuse them over the last 25 years.
"The words expressed by everyone that has spoken including the parents have impacted me to my innermost soul," Nassar said, reading from a slip of paper that he kept tucked in a breast pocket of his orange prison jumpsuit. "With that being said, I understand and acknowledge that it pales in comparison to the pain, trauma and emotions you all feel."
Cunningham said that her sentence was meant to protect society from Nassar in the future and also serve as a deterrent to any others who would think to use their positions of power to gain and exploit trust for their own personal pleasure. She told the former doctor that the pain he caused to his victims and their families spanned the world and was "incomprehensible." She thanked the women and girls who provided impact statements in court and told them that while their emotional and physical pain might continue, their words helped put an end to Nassar's criminal proceedings and were heard around the world.
"Their stories are not redundant even though many descriptions of the grooming by the defendant are eerily similar," Cunningham said. "... Each voice and each story does make a difference."
Nassar pleaded guilty to 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct in November. Seven of those counts came from crimes in Ingham County, where Michigan State and Nassar's former clinic are located. The other three came in Eaton County, where Nassar lived and frequently treated young gymnasts at the youth club Twistars.
Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced him to up to 175 years in state prison during a hearing in Ingham County two weeks ago. A federal judge sentenced Nassar to 60 years in federal prison on child pornography charges in December. The clock on his state prison time begins when his federal sentence expires, and the Ingham and Eaton County sentences run concurrently. Nassar, 54, would not be eligible for parole until the year 2117.
Monday's hearing was the 10th combined day in court for Nassar on his state charges in the past three weeks. During that time, 204 different individual provided impact statements to Cunningham and Aquilina.
While Nassar's federal sentence was already likely to keep him behind bars for the remainder of his natural life, prosecutors said providing a forum for the women who say Nassar abused them to confront him and tell their stories in court was an important part of the plea deal they negotiated with the disgraced doctor's attorneys.
"I truly believe we have seen the worst of humanity in these past few weeks. And we've also seen the best. We have seen how one voice can start a movement, how a reckoning can become justice," assistant attorney general Angela Povilaitis said.
The one voice Povilaitis referenced was that of Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accused Nassar of sexual abuse in a 2016 article in the Indianapolis Star. Denhollander's story, and her ensuing complaint to police, were the catalyst for Nassar's downfall. She was the final woman to provide an impact statement on Friday. Denhollander asked the judge: "How much is a little girl worth?" She told Judge Cunningham that Monday would be her opportunity to answer that question by using the full weight of the law against Nassar.
"Tell them they are worth everything. Tell them they are seen. Tell them they are heard. Tell them they matter," Denhollander said. "May the rest of the world begin to live out that answer as well."
Many of the speakers in court during the past several weeks used their time to demand accountability from the people and institutions they say could have stopped Nassar sooner. Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee are among the co-defendants in civil lawsuits that more than 200 women have filed regarding Nassar's abuse.
More than a dozen girls and women say they told an authority figure about Nassar's inappropriate behavior at some point before his arrest in September 2016. Larissa Boyce, a former youth gymnast, says she told Michigan State coach Kathie Klages in 1997 that Nassar had touched her inappropriately.
Boyce was one of the final women to address the court in a statement made Friday afternoon. She asked anyone who enabled Nassar to prey on young women for as long as he did to come forward and explain how that happened.
"You have a second chance to do the right thing," Boyce said. "I hope and pray you can be transparent and willing to admit you missed this. Teach our country and the world how you missed this. Own up to your mistakes. I believe there is an opportunity for you to stand up and redeem these mistakes by doing the right thing now."
The Michigan attorney general's office is also conducting a broad, sweeping investigation into the handling of sexual assault on Michigan State's campus to find out if and when others at the university could have done more to stop Nassar. Attorney general Bill Schuette assigned special counsel Bill Forsythe to lead the investigation.
"No department and no individual at Michigan State is off-limits," Schuette said.
Denhollander and Boyce both said Monday's proceedings came as a relief after a few long weeks in court and much longer years waiting to see Nassar brought to justice.
"I felt like a weight was lifted off of me," Boyce said. "Finally I don't have to face him in court anymore. It's almost like this chapter is coming to a close in a way."