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They helped serve justice to Larry Nassar

They took down Larry Nassar.One is a brave former gymnast who talked to a newspaper about abuse she endured fr...

Posted: Jan 25, 2018 9:58 AM
Updated: Jan 25, 2018 9:58 AM

They took down Larry Nassar.

One is a brave former gymnast who talked to a newspaper about abuse she endured from the disgraced doctor. Reporters at The Indianapolis Star, who broke the story, brought more horror stories to light. With the help of a detective and prosecutor, survivors confronted their abuser in a Michigan courtroom.

On Wednesday, a judge wrote the final chapter. Nassar will spend the rest of his life in prison.

The former osteopathic sports physician with USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University had pleaded guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct in Ingham County, Michigan, and has admitted to sexually assaulting and abusing young girls under the guise of providing medical treatment.

Here are the stories of those who served justice to Nassar.

Rachael Denhollander

Former gymnast Rachael Denhollander is credited with helping to shine the light on Nassar's abuse.

Denhollander told The Indianapolis Star of Nassar's abuse in a September 2016 story. She was the last of more than 150 women and girls to confront Nassar in court during his sentencing hearing.

"Larry is a hardened and determined sexual predator. I know this first-hand. At age 15, when I suffered from chronic back pain, Larry sexually assaulted me repeatedly under the guise of medical treatment for nearly a year," Denhollander said.

"He did this with my own mother in the room, carefully and perfectly obstructing her view so she would not know what he was doing," she said.

"Larry's the most dangerous type of abuser. One who is capable of manipulating his victims through coldly calculated grooming methodologies, presenting the most wholesome, caring external persona as a deliberate means to ensure a steady stream of children to assault," Denhollander said.

The other survivors

Survivors shared their stories in court, fighting back tears, recalling the horrors. Kyle Stephens. Emma Ann Miller. Olympian Aly Raisman. More than 150 others.

Raisman looked directly at Nassar in court as she lambasted him last week.

"Larry, you do realize now that we, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time, are now a force, and you are nothing," she said.

The 15-year-old Miller, one of Nassar's youngest victims -- and possibly his most recent -- declared: "I'm possibly the last child he will ever assault."

"Long after the 'Olympic gymnasts' doctor' fades into a trivia fact known only by us or a Jeopardy contestant, the word 'Nassar' will permanently be associated with child sexual abuse," the teenager said.

Larry Nassar's abuse victims, in their own words

Stephens was the first survivor to step to the podium during the seven days of victim impact statements as part of Nassar's plea deal.

"You used my body for six years for your own sexual gratification. That is unforgivable. I've told counselors your name in hopes that they would report you. I have reported you to child protective services twice. I gave a testament to get your medical license revoked," Stephens said.

"Perhaps you have figured it out by now, but little girls don't stay little forever. They grow into strong women who return to destroy your world," Stephens said.

Nassar didn't look at her.

The Indianapolis Star investigation team

In March 2016, reporters Marisa Kwiatkowski, Mark Alesia and Tim Evans began investigating USA Gymnastics, the national governing body for gymnastics. Their investigative series led to charges first being filed against Nassar in November 2016 and again in February 2017.

In court on Wednesday, Michigan Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis said society needs more investigative journalists, and praised the newspaper's work

"Without that first Indianapolis Star story in August of 2016, without the story where Rachael came forward publicly shortly thereafter, he would still be practicing medicine, treating athletes and abusing kids. Let that sink in for a minute. Right now, he would be at his office ... not far from this courtroom and the Michigan State University campus abusing children, had it not been for the investigative reporters and Rachael who brought this case," Povilaitis said.

State Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis

Povilaitis, a longtime sex crimes prosecutor, was the lead prosecutor in the case.

Outside court, she hugged survivors, who thanked her for her persistence and told her they appreciated everything she did.

Povilaitis said the more than 150 survivors who shared their stories of abuse "kind of empower me, too, and keep me going forward."

"I've been a sex crimes prosecutor for almost 20 years ... and sometimes things don't work out as well as they do here. I've had many cases where you think you have a slam dunk and the jury finds otherwise or you have something else that happens," she told reporters Wednesday.

"I pray and hope that jurors are watching, police are watching, prosecutors are watching, the community is watching. And those predators are watching too and they know that we will come for them and we will support these women if they come forward," she said.

Michigan State University Detective Lt. Andrea Munford

Munford, the lead investigator in the case, is a member of the department's special victims unit.

"One of the most important things is meeting people where they are and working at their pace," said Munford, a Michigan State graduate and a 20-year veteran of the department, according to a university profile. "We want to give them back some of the control they may feel they lost after reporting."

"Our victims and the public are incredibly lucky to have their case investigated by arguably the best sex crimes detective in the country and her team," Povilaitis told the court. "Detective Lt. Andrea Munford is not only a smart, dedicated and hard-working investigator, but she is also empathetic and compassionate."

Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon, who resigned late Wednesday, praised Munford in her resignation letter.

Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina

Aquilina showed compassion to the survivors, who shared their stories. The judge transformed the gut-wrenching hearing into a therapy session.

"It seems to me, after this, you can finish writing. You found your voice," Aquilina told one survivor who spoke of her love for music.

Before sentencing Nassar, Aquilina shared her personal story of coming to the United States as an immigrant.

"I came to this country stateless, unnaturalized. My father's Maltese, my mother's German. And I was raised on old country values," she told Nassar.

Her family always told her she lived in the greatest country -- and she believed them. That's why she enlisted in the military, she said.

"I don't have many friends because I speak out ... I speak out because I want change. Because I don't believe in hiding the truth," she said.

She scolded Nassar for a letter he had written to th e court defending himself.

"You have not yet owned what you did," she said.

Calling it a "privilege" to sentence him, Aquilina sentenced Nassar to 40 to 175 years.

"I have just signed your death warrant," she said.

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