LANSING, Mich. >> A former elite gymnast said today that a sports doctor who treated Olympic athletes overlooked what turned out to be a broken leg while he molested her in the basement of his home, one of the latest victims to testify at a Michigan sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar.
Isabell Hutchins practiced for weeks at a Lansing-area gymnastics club and even competed at national events despite acute leg pain as a teen in 2011. She said Nassar did nothing to encourage her to get help and instead molested her during late-night appointments at his home.
“You were never a real doctor. You did not heal me. You only hurt me,” Hutchins told Nassar, who was seated a few feet away in the Ingham County courtroom as the sentencing phase reached a sixth day.
Nassar, 54, has admitted sexually assaulting athletes when he was employed by Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, which is the sport’s national governing organization and trains Olympians. His accusers have described going to Nassar with injuries to their backs, pelvic, hamstrings and even ankles. They have said that he molested them under the guise that what he was doing involved legitimate medical procedures that would relieve their pain.
Meanwhile, a senior member of Michigan State’s governing board said university President Lou Anna Simon will not be forced out over the Nassar scandal — “period.” Joel Ferguson said she’s been the best leader in his 30 years as a trustee.
“There’s so many more things going on at the university than just this Nassar thing,” Ferguson told radio station WVFN.
He suggested victims who are suing Michigan State will be compensated for the acts of a “pervert.” A former federal prosecutor hired by the school has said there’s no evidence that campus officials knew what Nassar was doing, although some victims said they complained years ago.
Nassar pleaded guilty to assaulting seven people in Ingham County, but the sentencing hearing has been open to anyone who said they were a victim. Almost 160 women or girls have asked to speak or have a statement read on their behalf. Under a plea deal, he faces a minimum of 25 to 40 years behind bars, although the actual sentence could be much higher.
He already has been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography crimes.
Before Judge Rosemarie Aquilina entered court, Nassar settled into a chair next to his lawyer and shook his head while reading a piece of paper.
The mother of a victim, Anne Swinehart, said she had a message for critics who are following the story.
“Quit shaming and blaming the parents,” she said. “Trust me, you would not have known, and you would not have done anything differently. So stop.”
The judge continued her practice of praising each speaker. She also tried to ease Swinehart’s feelings about letting her daughter down.
“The red flags may have been there, but they were designed to be hidden. Leave the blame here with him,” Aquilina said of Nassar.
The judge subsequently heard from Mattie Larson, a former member of the national gymnastics team, who said Nassar’s fingers “always seemed to find a way” to her genitals, even when he was supposed to be treating her for ankle and foot injuries.
She also gave an unflattering portrayal of the Karolyi ranch outside Huntsville, Texas, where the team trained. She said it was very remote, the “perfect environment” for Nassar and abusive coaches “to thrive.”
USA Gymnastics last week said the ranch would no longer serve as the national training center.