Thursday 27 June 2019

Judge who sentenced serial sex abuser Larry Nassar refuses to quit case

Rosemarie Aquilina was criticised for comments including one suggesting she would allow someone to do to Nassar what he did to others.

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina holds up a binder of media requests that she says she has not responded to (Matthew Dae Smith/AP)
Judge Rosemarie Aquilina holds up a binder of media requests that she says she has not responded to (Matthew Dae Smith/AP)

By Ed White

The judge who held an extraordinary hearing before sentencing sports doctor Larry Nassar to prison for sexually assaulting female athletes refused to disqualify herself from the case on Friday if higher courts send it back to fix any errors.

Michigan judge Rosemarie Aquilina said some of her courtroom comments about Nassar last January were “perhaps inartful”.

I have not crossed any boundaries. ... Bias? No. Justice? Yes Judge Rosemarie Aquilina

But she denied any bias while handling the biggest sexual-assault scandal in sports history.

“I have not crossed any boundaries. … Bias? No. Justice? Yes,” Ms Aquilina said.

Larry Nassar sits during his sentencing hearing in Michigan (Carlos Osorio/AP)

She sentenced Nassar to at least 40 years in prison after listening to more than 150 victims describe the impact on their lives.

Nassar was a doctor at Michigan State University and at USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.

He is also serving decades for federal child pornography crimes.

The hearing Friday was a procedural step in Nassar’s bid to be re-sentenced by another judge and in the months ahead, the case will move up to higher courts.

Nassar’s appellate lawyers noted that Ms Aquilina was extremely outspoken during the sentencing.

The judge praised each victim and called Nassar a “monster” who is “going to wither” like the wicked witch in The Wizard Of Oz.

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina listens to a victim statement during the sixth day of Larry Nassar’s sentencing hearing (Dale G. Young/AP)

At another point, Ms Aquilina said she would allow someone “to do to him what he did to others” if the US Constitution allowed cruel punishment.

She said the sentence she imposed was his “death warrant”.

“The appearance of impropriety has been broken at this point,” lawyer Malika Ramsey-Heath said.

In July, Ms Aquilina appeared at the ESPY awards in Los Angeles where Nassar’s victims were honoured.

She said she trademarked her name after it started appearing on T-shirts, including one worn by actress Natalie Portman on Saturday Night Live.

The judge said she wants to use money from the trademark to create a foundation to help assault victims, including people unrelated to the Nassar case.

Press Association

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