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Thu, 18 Jan 2018 11:21:03 +0000
(INGRAM COUNTRY, Mich.) -- Thomas Brennan planned to stand in silent support Wednesday at the side of a gymnast he once coached as she faced down in a Michigan courtroom the man who molested her when she was a young girl -- former Olympic doctor Larry Nassar.
But when Nassar, sitting just feet away in Ingram County Circuit Court in Lansing, refused to look at Gwen Anderson as she spoke, Brennan couldn't remain silent.
"Look at her," Brennan ordered, staring coldly at Nassar.
When Anderson finished recalling the depravity she underwent in Nassar's examination room, Brennan lashed out again, telling the former USA Olympic gymnastics team doctor, "For the record, go to hell."
As he turned to escort Anderson back to her seat, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina stopped Brennan and asked if he had anything else to say. He did.
"I have a different relationship with Larry from the standpoint that I was a coach for many years," said Brennan, an exercise physiologist. "When I graduated from grad school he was an adviser of mine. He's been a mentor of mine. I've done clinics with him for years in the past. And I've also sent well over a hundred kids to him over the years."
After pausing briefly to regain his composure, Brennan added, "So the guilt I feel for that is hard to fathom."
The courtroom drama came on the second of a four-day sentencing hearing for Nassar, who for years molested young female athletes in his examination room under the pretense that he was conducting valid medical procedures.
Nassar pleaded guilty in November to sexually assaulting seven girls, but Judge Aquilina is allowing many more victims to speak in court.
The disgraced doctor has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison after pleading guilty to federal child pornography charges. He has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 125 women and girls in civil lawsuits.
Among the young women who say they were molested by Nassar are Olympic medalists Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Gabby Douglas and Jamie Dantzscher. Four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles said on Monday that she, too, was sexually abused by Nassar.
Prosecutors plan to call at least 103 of 125 victims to give victim impact statements against Nassar, who is also a former Michigan State University sports doctor. But more could be added to the list. After the first day of the hearing, three additional victims contacted prosecutors to request to speak.
A day after nearly two dozen victims spoke out, more appeared in court Wednesday to asked Aquilina to give Nassar the maximum sentence of up to 125 years in prison.
Among those who spoke Wednesday, were:
-- Amanda Thomashow, who said Nassar molested her in 2014 when she went to see him about hip and back pain. She said she initially saw Nassar as a "hero doctor in town," someone she thought would help heal her injuries.
"That man was no hero, he was a villain," said Thomashow, one day after her 17-year-old sister, Jessica, stood at the same podium and explained how Nassar molested her when she was 9 years old.
"He was so smooth and so calculated at that appointment ... and then he sexually assaulted me," said Thomashow, a former Michigan State University student.
"I knew that he had abused me. I reported it. Michigan State University, the school I loved and trusted, had the audacity to tell me that I did not understand the difference between sexual assault and a medical procedure," she said. "The master manipulator took advantage of his title, he abused me and when I found the strength to talk about what happened, I was ignored and my voice was silenced."
Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon attended the court hearing Wednesday, but would not address charges by Thomashow and other victims that the school enabled Nassar.
"This is their stories and their lived experiences with their words, and I'm not going to challenge those words because it's important for them to say those words today in their own way," Simon told reporters outside the courtroom. "This is not the place for that conversation and I won't be engaged in that here. They'll be another time and place to do that."
-- Gina Nichols, a registered nurse, spoke on behalf of her daughter, Maggie, now a student at the University of Oklahoma, who was molested when she was 13 or 14 by Nassar.
"You disgrace yourself by calling yourself a doctor to the medical community," said Nichols, adding that her husband is a practicing physician.
"A real doctor helps heal, he doesn't hurt," Nichols said. "You actually are not a real doctor. You're a serial child molester, a pedophile."
-- Jeanette Antolin, a former gymnast, said Nassar at first manipulated her into believing he was a good guy before sexually abusing her.
"Little did I know that behind his good guy façade, there was a monster preying on innocent victims such as myself," Antolin said. "He robbed a good portion of my gymnastics experience but not just from me, from countless women."
Speaking directly to Nassar, she said, "As you sit behind bars, I pray that you are tormented by the very memory of the words spoken to you by all us brave women standing here today."
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