Michigan court will review Larry Nassar sentencing after claims of bias

One of the most memorable voices from serial sex abuser Larry Nassar's January sentencing was that of Michigan...

Posted: Dec 19, 2018 8:41 AM

One of the most memorable voices from serial sex abuser Larry Nassar's January sentencing was that of Michigan Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina.

Nassar's team of public defenders say Aquilina was biased in rendering her decision and have asked for a new sentencing hearing with a different judge. Last week, the state court of appeals agreed to hear Nassar's motion to be resentenced.

When Aquilina sentenced Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison, she ripped into the former USA Gymnastics doctor, who had pleaded guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct. The judge imagined aloud what she'd like to do to Nassar if not for the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution.

"Our Constitution does not allow for cruel and unusual punishment," she said. "If it did, I have to say, I might allow what he did to all of these beautiful souls -- these young women in their childhood -- I would allow someone or many people to do to him what he did to others."

In her remarks, she responded to a letter he wrote to her accusing her of running a media circus.

She told Nassar, once a renowned doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, that there was no truth in his letter and he was being delusional.

In a statement issued Monday, the State Appellate Defender Office wrote, "It is in the most difficult cases that we must be especially vigilant to ensure that the rule of law prevails."

In their September filing, Nassar's attorneys wrote that the judge used the sentencing hearing to advance an agenda and that she had her mind made up about a sentence before the hearing began.

AG supports judge

The Michigan Attorney General's office defended the judge, saying the conduct and language cited by Nassar's attorneys all came after the former doctor admitted his guilt.

"Once his guilt had been determined, the court's role shifted from exclusively being an impartial arbiter to an entity carrying the voice of the community," the filing said.

At the time of Nassar's sentencing, Aquilina said she wouldn't talk to the media until after the appeals process. But in November, she told NBC's "Today" show that she considered his side fairly and impartially. She said listening to nearly 160 people give impact statements was "so transformational for me."

She also spoke to the Detroit News in April, and to other media since.

Aquilina declined to comment through her spokesperson Jennifer Davis.

Experts found her approach different

The judge's courtroom approach was striking and uncommon, legal experts said in January, particularly during impact statements, which are designed to give victims their day in court.

Victim Amanda Cormier told the court she lost her passion for music after Nassar abused her.

Aquilina listened to her and then offered some advice to Cormier -- and to her unborn baby.

"It seems to me, after this, you can finish writing. You found your voice," Aquilina said. "It's a strong, effective, brave voice, and you have a child coming. Maybe what you need to do is start and finish a lullaby."

Getting personal with the victims of the case was very unusual, one expert said at the time.

"It's not really an opportunity for a judge to give a comforting statement, psychiatric counsel, (or) trauma advice," said Stacy Schneider, a criminal defense attorney and legal commentator. "That wasn't the purpose of it."

Stu Slotnick, a defense attorney and former prosecutor, said it was unusual for a judge to express an strong opinons before a sentence is announced.

Judges showing empathy for victims is "totally appropriate," according to Jennifer Long, the chief executive officer at Aequitas, an organization that offers resources to prosecutors in cases of sexual and domestic violence.

"I don't think that's any way in contradiction to the rules of the judge. It demonstrates that the judge is understanding of the victim's suffering," she said then.

Nassar, 55, is in federal prison, convicted of child pornography charges. He is not eligible for release until 2069. If he is still alive at that time, he would then begin to serve the state sentence, which carries a minimum of 40 years.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 314509

Reported Deaths: 7247
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21626259
Hinds20359415
Harrison17934309
Rankin13634278
Jackson13447246
Madison10099217
Lee9980174
Jones8381163
Forrest7683152
Lauderdale7191241
Lowndes6401147
Lamar623086
Lafayette6200118
Washington5339134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462798
Panola4588107
Pearl River4512146
Marshall4443103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420772
Monroe4113133
Union411076
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3968110
Hancock379386
Leflore3497125
Sunflower336090
Tate334084
Pike3325105
Scott315973
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311669
Itawamba300477
Copiah297065
Coahoma295479
Simpson295288
Tippah288768
Adams286882
Prentiss279760
Marion269280
Leake268373
Wayne262641
Grenada261487
Covington259681
George248048
Newton246861
Winston227281
Tishomingo226967
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw207857
Holmes189173
Clay185454
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178841
Clarke178080
Calhoun170832
Yalobusha164338
Smith162434
Walthall133945
Greene130633
Lawrence128624
Montgomery126942
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton99525
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83823
Quitman80916
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67331
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 532895

Reported Deaths: 11001
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson771431528
Mobile41089808
Madison34837505
Tuscaloosa25810454
Montgomery24355588
Shelby23730249
Baldwin21191309
Lee15892171
Calhoun14522316
Morgan14324279
Etowah13861353
Marshall12250223
Houston10581281
Elmore10060205
Limestone9986151
Cullman9705194
St. Clair9702243
Lauderdale9441242
DeKalb8846187
Talladega8255176
Walker7246277
Autauga6938108
Jackson6815112
Blount6694137
Colbert6310134
Coffee5524119
Dale4850111
Russell443238
Chilton4308112
Franklin426282
Covington4136118
Tallapoosa4039152
Escambia393977
Chambers3578123
Dallas3557152
Clarke351161
Marion3130101
Pike311377
Lawrence300798
Winston275673
Bibb261564
Geneva251477
Marengo249664
Pickens234761
Barbour231756
Hale223277
Butler216469
Fayette212562
Henry189044
Cherokee184745
Randolph181742
Monroe178040
Washington167639
Macon159950
Clay156857
Crenshaw152757
Cleburne149141
Lamar142935
Lowndes139053
Wilcox127130
Bullock122841
Conecuh110629
Coosa107928
Perry107826
Sumter104832
Greene92534
Choctaw61124
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
53° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 53°
Columbus
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 54°
Oxford
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 48°
Starkville
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 50°
High pressure will continue to dominate our weather forecast for this weekend. This will keep our area filled with plenty of sunshine. However, there will be some changes next week in our weahter forecast as low pressure brings back some chances for showers and thunderstorms.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather