Three-time Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney joined other gymnasts and victims of a disgraced former sports doctor when her emotional testimony of sexual abuse and emotional trauma by Larry Nassar was read in a Michigan courtroom Thursday.
About 100 victims are expected to address the court during the four-day sentencing hearing for 54-year-old Nassar, who has pleaded guilty to molesting females with his hands at his Michigan State University office, his home and a Lansing-area gymnastics club, often while their parents were in the room. Maroney's testimony comes on the third consecutive day of the hearing, in which many cried as they told their stories, some requested anonymity and others unleashed.
(Warning: The testimony and statements included in the video above may be graphic in nature.)
Maroney, who did not appear in the courtroom and had her testimony read by a prosecutor, wrote in her statement that Nassar began abusing her when she was about 14 years old. "Whenever this man could find the chance, I was 'treated,'" her statement read.
She wrote that the "scariest night of my life" happened when she was 15. The gymnast's statement said that she was given a sleeping pill while on a long flight to Tokyo, and when she woke up, "I was all alone with [Nassar] in his hotel room" receiving "treatment."
"I thought I was going to die that night," Maroney wrote.
Maroney urged for Nassar to receive the maximum sentence, "so he will never prey on another child." The former doctor faces a minimum sentence of 25 to 40 years.
U.S. & World
She also blamed Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee for his continued work with athletes. In 2016, Maroney reached a financial settlement with USA Gymnastics that included a $100,000 fine if she spoke out about the abuse. However, the organization later said that they have not and will not seek payment from Maroney.
"I had a dream to go to the Olympics," Maroney wrote. "The things I had to endure to get there were unnecessary and disgusting. ... Our silence has given the wrong people power for too long. It is time to take our power back."
Jamie Dantzscher, a 2000 Olympic gymnast, also spoke on Thursday and addressed Nassar directly. She said she initially "had no idea there were other victims."
Dantzscher met Nassar when she joined the U.S. national team at 12 years old. He molested her during his many sessions with her, and she was one of the first women to publically accuse Nassar of abuse.
"Your days of manipulation are over," she said. "We have a voice. We have the power now."
Judge Rosemarie Aquilina began the day by reading aloud a letter from Nassar, who argued that it was too hard to listen to his accusers and that the hearing has been turned into a "media circus."
"I didn't ask any media to be here," responded Aquilina, who has allowed any accuser who wishes to speak to do so at the hearing. Prosecutors said a total of 105 women have requested to address the court.
The judge read an excerpt from Nassar's letter: "Aquilina is allowing them all to talk. She wants me to sit in the witness box next to her for all four days so the media cameras will be directed at her."
Aquilina responded: "I don't have a dog in this fight, sir. I didn't want even one victim to lose their voice. ... Spending four or five days listening to them is significantly minor considering the hours of pleasure you had at their expense and ruining their lives."
USA Gymnastics, which chooses the Olympic and national teams, has been forced to respond swiftly to the scandal. It announced Thursday that it will no longer train gymnasts at the famed Karolyi ranch in Texas where some athletes say they were molested by Nassar.
"It has been my intent to terminate this agreement since I began as president and CEO in December," Kerry Perry of USA Gymnastics said in a statement. "Our most important priority is our athletes, and their training environment must reflect this. We are committed to a culture that empowers and supports our athletes."
Kyle Stephens was the first victim to testify in Nassar's hearing, saying Tuesday to Nassar, "I testified to let the world know that you are a repulsive liar and those 'treatments' were pathetically veiled sexual abuse."
Stephens said Nassar, who often bowed his head and closed his eyes or looked away as she and others spoke, repeatedly abused her from age 6 until age 12 during family visits to his home in Holt, near Lansing. She said he rubbed his genitals on her and digitally penetrated her, among other abuse.
She said Nassar denied it, and her parents initially believed him. Stephens said she largely blamed her father's suicide on the shame and self-loathing he felt for defending Nassar.
"Perhaps you have figured it out by now, but little girls don't stay little forever," Stephens said. "They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world."
Aquilina has consoled the women and girls who have spoken or had their statements read during the multi-day hearing, saying they should not blame themselves and praising them for their bravery in speaking out.
Thomas Brennan, a youth gymnastics coach who sent more than 100 young girls to Nassar for treatment, stood with Gwen Anderson as she testified Wednesday about the abuse she experienced.
As Nassar sat with his head bowed, Brennan interrupted Anderson to tell Nassar to "look at her."
"For the record, go to hell," Brennan said following Anderson's testimony, adding that the "guilt" he feels for sending athletes to Nassar "is hard to fathom."
On Jan. 31, Nassar will get another sentence for sexual assaults at a Lansing-area gymnastics club in a different county. And in a separate trial, he pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography and received 60 years in prison.
Nassar added in his letter to Aquilina that he had passed out twice before his federal sentencing on the child pornography charges, and the judge wished him well in response.
On Wednesday, the second day of the sexual abuse hearing, Aquilina had cut the day short so Nassar could meet with mental health services. When the judge asked if any recommendations were made for him, he said there were not.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.