Abuse victims return for Nassar's final sentencing hearing


CHARLOTTE, Mich. (AP) — The final sentencing hearing began today for disgraced former sports doctor Larry Nassar, who was again confronted by victims as he faced another prison sentence for molesting gymnasts at an elite Michigan club run by an Olympic coach.

"You took advantage of my innocence and trust," 17-year-old Jessica Thomashow told Nassar, who sat at the defense table with his lawyers. "You were my doctor. Why? I ask myself that question all the time. What you did to me was twisted. You manipulated me and my entire family. How dare you."

Judge Janice Cunningham has set aside several days for more than 60 women and girls who want to confront Nassar or have their statement read in court. The hearing could unfold much the same as a hearing last week in another county where a different judge allowed more than 150 women and girls to confront Nassar about his abuse.

That hearing ended with Nassar getting sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison, with the judge describing it as Nassar's "death warrant."

Annie Labrie said what Nassar did to her made her "skin crawl," but every adult around her assured her he was the only option, and she hid the abuse from her parents. She said it is imperative for society to understand Nassar's pedophilia was not an isolated incident, and gymnastics and gyms like Twistars have a "specific culture" that allows people like him to flourish.

The practice of allowing accusers to speak even if they are not tied directly to a case has raised questions about fairness. But attorneys say the victim statements probably pose little risk on appeal, especially since Nassar pleaded guilty, agreed to allow the statements and is expected to get another long prison sentence as part of his deal with prosecutors.

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