Nassar moves to a federal prison in Florida

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News
Former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

In the wake of losing two appeals of his prison sentences, Larry Nassar has been moved to a high-security federal prison in central Florida that has been described as a "safe" place for high-profile inmates. 

Nassar is now housed in Coleman II United States Penitentiary, a prison in Sumterville, Florida, near Orlando, the Federal Bureau of Prisons website showed Tuesday.

Since earlier this month, Nassar had been in the Oklahoma Federal Transfer Center, a holdover facility. He was moved there after spending six months in the federal penitentiary in Tucson, Arizona, where he was assaulted in late May within hours of being released into the general population.

Nassar is a challenging inmate to house due to the high publicity of his case, Ralph Miller, a retired Bureau of Prisons employee who specialized in sex offender designations, has said.

After Nassar was moved from Arizona, Miller said an investigation likely showed that he could not be kept safe in USP Tucson, which houses a high number of sex offenders. He predicted that Nassar would be transferred to Coleman, which houses inmates who have not been able to be safely housed in the mainstream high-security facilities.  

Coleman has been described as "special needs prison," according to an account by former prisoner Nate A. Lindell published by a nonprofit journalism organization covering criminal justice, the Marshall Project.

Lindell called Coleman  "a 'safe' facility where informants, former cops, ex-gang members, check-ins (prisoners who intentionally put themselves in solitary confinement to be safe), homosexuals, and sex offenders can all, supposedly, walk the yard freely. At regular BOP lockups, these types of men are in danger of being beaten, stabbed, or strangled to death."

Coleman is a complex made up of five separate facilities that includes two high-security penitentiaries, medium-security center and low-security institution, according to a an orientation handbook of the institution.

The most famous inmate at Coleman is Leonard Peltier, the Native American activist convicted of shooting two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1975, but he is housed in Coleman I.

High-profile prisoners in Coleman II, where Nassar is housed, include Amine El-Khalifi, a terrorist who attempted a suicide bombing on  the U.S. Capitol building in 2012; and James “Whitey” Bulger, a Boston organized crime boss who was on the FBI’s most wanted list until he was arrested in 2011 after being on the run for 16 years.

Nassar's attorney, Malaika Ramsey-Heath of the State Appellate Defender Office in Detroit, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Nassar, a former doctor for Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics who treated many of the nation's Olympic gymnasts, was incarcerated in February after he pleaded guilty to 10 counts of first-degree criminal sexual misconduct and possessing hordes of child pornography.

During a hearing for victims, more than 250 spoke of his abuse over more than two decades. Judges gave him three consecutive prison sentences that translate into a de facto life term.

He is serving a 60-year federal sentence for the child pornography conviction and is waging an appeal of all three sentences, seeking to reduce his time and have the prison terms run concurrently.

Within the last week, judges have denied his appeals in federal and Ingham County courts. His lawyer in the federal appeal declined to say whether Nassar will appeal his denial, but his lawyers said they will appeal his 40-175 year sentence in Ingham County. Meanwhile, they are also seeking to appeal his 40-125 year sentence in Eaton County.