He spent most of his adult career treating the elite athletes of the US Olympic Gymnastics team, now it appears physician Larry Nassar will spend the rest of his life in prison. Nassar, who has been accused by several former US Olympic athletes of sexual abuse, was sentenced to 60 years in prison for being caught in possession of thousands of images of child pornography. And, according to a report in the Associated Press, that’s just the beginning of the reckoning Nassar is facing now. Soon, he will be sentenced in state court for pleading guilty to “using his hands to molest girls” at his office in Lansing, Michigan.
Additionally, Nassar is being sued by more than 100 women for similar crimes. In that case, Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics are co-defendants. Speaking at his sentencing, Nassar claimed to have an addiction: “You go back, and you wonder how I got down this path to begin with… I really did try to be a good person. … I hope one day I can be forgiven, and I’m going to take every day of your sentence to try to better myself.”
Nassar won’t be able to begin his 60-year sentence until he completes the sentences yet to be determined in the other cases, in which he faces at least 25 years. One of his victims, former gymnast McKayla Maroney, called Nassar a “monster” who “left scars on my psyche that may never go away…”
During the investigation into allegations against Nassar, he attempted to destroy evidence, paying someone to wipe his laptop’s memory. He left the hard drives in his trash, but police beat the garbage collectors to the curb, sealing Nassar’s fate. Officials at Michigan State University applauded the 60-year sentence, even as attorneys for the victims were openly critical of the university. They claim MSU failed to understand the threat posed by Nassar, giving him access to victim after victim over many years. Those statements place some of the blame for Nassar’s crimes directly on the school, which now faces the PR crisis of being linked to a serial child abuser. It’s a PR position with unfortunate precedent. Penn State University spent years trying to separate its brand from the child abuse allegations proven against former football coach Jerry Sandusky.
MSU should not take these allegations lightly. They need to offer an explanation for their lack of action on Nassar and get out ahead of this narrative before they lose any chance of gaining initiative.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.