Having been attacked at a federal penitentiary in Tucson shortly after being released into the general population, Larry Nassar was recently moved to a prison in central Florida. Among the new neighbors the disgraced former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State team doctor might come across there is notorious ex-mobster James “Whitey” Bulger.
Nassar’s new home is the Coleman II U.S. Penitentiary, located about 50 miles northwest of Orlando, where he is locked up on federal charges related to child pornography, with a listed release date of March 2069. If the 55-year-old were to still be alive at that point, he would begin serving a term of 40 to 175 years in a state prison, per a Michigan judge’s ruling following an extraordinary, seven-day sentencing hearing in January at which over 150 girls, women and parents spoke out about the pain his sexual abuse inflicted.
In a firsthand account from 2016 (via the Marshall Project), a former inmate at Coleman described it as “a so-called special-needs prison — 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.” He noted that at “regular” facilities overseen by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, “these types of men are in danger of being beaten, stabbed or strangled to death.”
The ex-inmate, Nate Lindell, recalled coming across Bulger there, describing the longtime fixture atop the FBI’s Most Wanted list as “a pale, white-haired geezer in a wheelchair.” Bulger, then 86, had arrived at Coleman the year before (per the Orlando Sentinel), after having been convicted in 2013 of 11 counts of murder, as well as of other counts of racketeering and gun possession.
As with Nassar, Bulger had been previously incarcerated in Tucson, with the Boston Globe reporting in 2015 that the move was prompted by “allegations last summer of an improper relationship with a female psychologist who provided counseling to him and others” at the Arizona facility. She was alleged to have possibly done favors for Bulger, including helping him establish communication with a girlfriend locked up at a different prison, in exchange for gifts such as autographed photos of himself.
The Globe claimed that Bulger was treated as a “sort of celebrity” at the Tucson prison, and Lindell’s account indicated a similar situation at Coleman. Such was not the case with Nassar in Arizona, at least to judge from the attack his court-appointed attorneys said he suffered in May.
The attorneys placed some of the blame for the incident on the Michigan judge, Rosemarie Aquilina, who had sentenced Nassar in January. During that hearing, they said in a July court filing, she made “efforts to demonize Dr. Nassar in front of the entire world,” “openly lamented that she could not impose cruel and unusual punishment upon the defendant” and “indicated her expectation that he would be harmed in prison.”
More recently, the attorneys were unsuccessful in having Aquilina removed from hearing Nassar’s appeal for a new sentence. She denied that appeal Monday, telling the court, “This is not Burger King — he will not have it his way.”
Of course, Nassar likely won’t be around to serve any of his sentence on state charges. In addition to Bulger, the federal penitentiary complex where he now resides also houses Leonard Peltier, a Native American activist who killed two FBI agents in 1975, and Amine El Khalifi, a Moroccan man convicted in 2012 of attempting to carry out a suicide bombing at the U.S. Capitol.
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