Larry Nassar Abuse Survivors Worry Judge's Celebrity May Strengthen Sentencing Appeal

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Judge Rosemarie Aquilina became a courtroom hero in 2018, after she sentenced Larry Nassar to 40 to 175 years for sexually abusing young women while serving as an athletic doctor at Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics.

This April, Nassar’s attorneys filed an appeal of the sentence, claiming it should be thrown out based on what it called Judge Aquilina’s “bias” against Nassar, according to HuffPost. Since the end of the case, the judge has scheduled media appearances, interviews, and speaking engagements, all talking about her advocacy for sexual assault survivors and athletes’ rights. Aquilina was also present at a news conference last year when Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) announced legislative proposals to reform the United States Olympic Committee, as reported by ESPN.

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While some still praise the judge for standing up for survivors, others—including victims of Larry Nassar who spoke to HuffPost—question whether Aquilina’s behavior will lend credence to Nassar’s appeal and result in his sentence being thrown out. Madeleine Jones, a woman Nassar admitted to abusing, told HuffPost, “I’ve never really seen a case where the judge gets appearances and interviews for doing their job. It’s very unprecedented, and it seems very unnecessary. It really does open the door to give slight credibility to Nassar’s appeal.” Another survivor shared with HuffPost that the judge’s frequent appearances weren’t just adding fuel to the fire of an appeal but also making it harder for survivors to put the case behind them.

Nassar’s attorneys claim that Judge Aquilina can’t have been entirely unbiased during the case after hearing her impassioned courtroom speeches and the sentence that was ultimately handed down, according to a statement made to HuffPost. Judge Aquilina’s apparently fame-hungry (she once told ESPN she could be the next Judge Judy) behavior post-sentencing seems to put at risk the exact thing she claims to have fought for in the courtroom. While it is unlikely that Nassar’s life sentence will be overturned entirely, the idea that his victims and their families would have to endure another hearing after everything that went into the first one is unconscionable and unjust.

In the worst-case scenario, if the appeal gains ground, the sentencing of Larry Nassar could be thrown out, and a new sentencing hearing would have to take place. The survivors of Nassar’s abuse, which spans years, would have the option to re-read their victim impact statements at the new sentencing hearing—where they would have to be in a room once more with the man who stole a piece of their lives.

Read the full story at HuffPost.

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Shannon Melero

Spurned blogger. Out for vengeance.