Nassar loses another appeal to reduce sentence

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News
Larry Nassar

Charlotte — Convicted child molester Larry Nassar lost his third attempt to reduce his prison time Thursday when an Eaton County Circuit judge denied his motion for a new sentence and for it to run concurrently with the federal sentence he is already serving.

During a hearing that lasted less than 20 minutes, Nassar's lawyers argued Michigan law does not allow for consecutive sentencing, so Nassar should be earning credit against the Eaton County sentence.

Malaika Ramsey-Heath, an attorney with the State Appellate Defender Office in Detroit, also argued that impermissible factors influenced the 40-125-year sentence that Judge Janice Cunningham gave Nassar in February when he pleaded to criminal sexual misconduct and agreed to allow victims to testify about his sexual abuse while he was a doctor.

In Nassar's case, Ramsey-Heath said, several uncharged people and entities were referenced during his sentencing, including Michigan State University, a gymnastics association, the Legislature and others.

"We included one particular quote in our brief where one speaker talked about the administration of the school, referencing MSU, and concluded by saying, 'Larry, have fun in prison. It's your turn to be abused,'" Ramsey-Heath said. "At the end of that speaker's remarks, this court thanked the speaker ... and indicated it would give her statement consideration when determining his sentence."

She also asked for a re-sentencing before a different judge because Cunningham had already been exposed to the statements.

But Chief Deputy Attorney General Laura Moody opposed the motions and said the request for a resentencing under a different judge is "so thoroughly without merit," but because of the gravity of the request, she would address it.

Moody said the sentencing hearing that was held earlier this year was not just to impose sentence on Nassar. 

"It was also held to allow the victims to express the pain and trauma they suffered at his hands," she said. "But today, Larry Nassar argues that he should be allowed to dictate how those victims express their pain. This is not only offensive to the victims, it is a further attempt to control and traumatize them, and it is an argument without an legal merit."

Moody added that the court tailored its penalty for Nassar based on his potential for rehabilitation, protection of society, appropriate sentence for his conduct and deterring others and correctly formulated a sentence based on those factors. 

Cunningham agreed with Moody and denied the motions.

"It is no secret that the crimes of the defendant have shaped many individuals, groups and institutions," Cunningham said. "However, this court did not engage in considering any impermissible factors when individually tailoring the defendant's sentence within the confines of the plea agreement."

Ramsey-Heath declined to discuss the judge's ruling afterward but said she would ask the Michigan Court of Appeals to consider an appeal. 

Nassar, 55, is a former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor who admitted that a procedure he performed on female patients had no medical purpose and was for his own sexual gratification. He admitted to 10 counts of criminal sexual misconduct while more than 250 young women testified about his abuse over nearly 30 years. He also admitted to possessing 37,000 images of child pornography.

Judges in three courts gave him sentences for his crimes and he was essentially given a life sentence: a 40-175-year sentence in Ingham County, a 40-125-year sentence in Eaton County for criminal sexual misconduct, and a 60-year sentence in federal court for possessing child porn.

Last month, Nassar lost attempts in the two other courts to reduce his prison time.

For six months, Nassar was housed in the U.S. Penitentiary, Tucson. But following an assault, hewas moved two weeks ago to Coleman II United States Penitentiary, a prison in Sumterville, Florida, near Orlando.

One of his other attorneys, Jacqueline McCann, said before Thursday's hearing began that she was unsure if he was in the general population.