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November 22, 2017

Does and should anyone care about just how and where child molester/gymnastics coach Larry Nassar rots in prison?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new CNN article headlined "Ex-USA Gymnastics doctor apologizes, pleads guilty to criminal sexual conduct." Here are the basics from the article, with the last quoted sentence and link of particular note for sentencing fans:

Larry Nassar, the former acclaimed USA Gymnastics team doctor, pleaded guilty Wednesday to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and admitted in a Michigan court to using his position to sexually abuse underage girls.  Three of the charges applied to victims under 13, and three applied to victims 13 to 15 years old.  Other charges were dismissed or reduced as part of a plea agreement.  All 125 victims who reported assaults to Michigan State Police will be allowed to give victim impact statements at Nassar's sentencing in January, according to the plea deal.

Nassar made a short statement apologizing and saying he was hopeful the community could move forward. "For all those involved, I'm so horribly sorry that this was like a match that turned into a forest fire out of control," he said.  "I have no animosity toward anyone. I just want healing. ... We need to move forward in a sense of growth and healing and I pray (for) that."

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said Nassar violated the trust of his patients, and she praised the victims for coming forward.... Dozens of women, including several gold-medal winning members of the famed "Fierce Five" team of American gymnasts, have accused Nassar of sexual misconduct in his role as the USA Gymnastics doctor....

In all, Nassar had been charged with 22 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and 11 counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct at the state level, Megan Hawthorne, deputy press secretary for state Attorney General Bill Schuette, told CNN in July.  Several of the first-degree charges pertained to victims under 13, and all of the state-level charges involve former family friends, gymnasts and patients of Nassar, Hawthorne said.

Separately, Nassar is also awaiting sentencing on federal charges of receiving child pornography, possessing child pornography and a charge that he hid and destroyed evidence in the case.  That hearing is scheduled for Monday.

The linked article at the end here details that Nassar's federal plea from July was to a series of federal counts with a "combined maximum of 60 years of imprisonment." For a host of reasons, I would expect the calculated guideline range for Nassar on his federal child porn charges to be life imprisonment, and I would predict that he will get a richly deserved statutory maximum sentence of 60 years imprisonment at his upcoming federal sentencing.  And because Nassar is in his mid-50s, this means he likely will be getting and serving a functional life sentence in federal court before he is even sentenced in Michigan on the state sex charges that he pleaded guilty to today.

The fact that Nassar likely will already be serving a functional federal life term before being sentenced on state charges does not, in my mind, make state proceedings unimportant or inconsequential, especially given that his victims may only have a chance to have their voices directly heard during the state proceedings.  But I asked the question in the title of this post because I wondered if anyone has a particularized view in a case like this as to whether it matters, symbolically or practically, just how a defendant who commits so many terrible crimes is subject to sentencing and prison service.

November 22, 2017 at 03:46 PM | Permalink


The average criminal commits 175 felonies a year, from age 3 to 75.

Posted by: David Behar | Nov 22, 2017 9:41:25 PM

Nice number but if you multiply it by 10 you get the number committed by the average politician every year. So just who is the bigger threat

Posted by: Rodsmith3510 | Nov 23, 2017 12:55:48 AM

Rod. Not counting white collar crime. That crime meter is spinning at supersonic speed. Even if innocent, and intending no crime, the average middle class person commits 3 federal regulatory felonies a day. That is 750 felonies for a work year. Mine are in the thousands a year. Now add corner cutting, tax evasion, misleading statements, amounting to fraud, violations of the rules of the road, rape by deception, including the wearing of padded bras. When I retire, I want to become a contractor. I ask for a check for $10,000 for supplies, and just never return. Do that 3 times a day, and you have something a nice retirement side business.

Multiplying crimes of lower class people by 10 is not enough. We need to multiply them by 100.

Posted by: David Behar | Nov 23, 2017 2:09:20 AM

Do they? Perhaps not.

Should they? I believe so. Punishment absent humanity is just naked bloodlust.

Posted by: Guy | Nov 23, 2017 8:26:35 AM

Even the worst offender has basic humanity so such things should matter to some degree.

Likewise, the victims can have a role and as seen in the last few decades, wish to do so in many instances. That to would be important to handle the right way thus sentencing matters there too as does perhaps prison service.

I am somewhat unsure if him serving time until he's 110 is necessary though. If he got out at 90, e.g., it might be enough.

Posted by: Joe | Nov 23, 2017 10:00:17 AM

If he only gets 60 years in federal sentencing, I'm sure the state will compensate with their multi-century beauts.

Posted by: Eric Knight | Nov 23, 2017 11:06:06 AM

The state charges are important for accountability to victims of immediate abuse, while the federal kiddie porn charges are important for accountability for the indirect victims. I don't think you can say "we're not going to prosecute some serious crime because he already has a long sentence." That is unfair to victims and that long sentence can change on appeal or subsequent sentencing decisions of the Supreme Court. The criminal process and sentencing is not just instrumental (how many years) but symbolic in expressing condemnation of behavior. I personally would be more bothered by a system that blew off prosecutions for physical abuse and possibly encourage offenders to 'think big' because they might not be subjected to trials for all of their crimes.

Posted by: Paul | Nov 23, 2017 11:19:06 AM

Paul is arguing for pointless tribunals to generate lawyer employment. Any such motion should be sanctioned as fraudulent, taking tax money and returning nothing of value.

Posted by: David Behar | Nov 23, 2017 11:33:41 AM

He should, of course, be placed in general population, for the Italian Death Penalty.

I once explained to a court, why the Hippocratic Oath has a prohibition against sex with patients, even if slaves. The body is the subject of the business.

We would not care if a bank cashier had sex with a customer. We would get agitated if she borrowed from the till. Money is the subject of the business of banking, and there can be no tolerance of looseness with the subject of the business. The customer must trust that submitting the body to the profession will not result in abuse. His behavior attacks that trust. It may result in more reluctance to seek care (less income), and cannot be tolerated.

The court disagreed, and threw out the case. The decision was upheld by the appellate court. More attack on the profession by the lawyer.

Eugene Volokh later argued that rules and regulations prohibiting sex with patients by all kinds of health providers violate Lawrence v. Texas. One could potentially argue that people aged older than 14 may be adults. The regulations may violate substantive due process.

Posted by: David Behar | Nov 23, 2017 3:45:00 PM

He should be executed for his crimes.

Posted by: federalist | Nov 24, 2017 3:27:07 PM

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