A Michigan 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 Friday if higher courts send it back to fix any errors.
Ingham County Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said some of her courtroom comments about Nassar last January were “perhaps inartful.” 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,” Aquilina said.
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’s first serving decades for federal child pornography crimes.
The hearing Friday was a procedural step in Nassar’s bid to be resentenced by another judge. In the months ahead, the case will move up to higher courts.
Nassar’s appellate lawyers noted that 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.”
At another point, Aquilina said she would allow someone “to do to him what he did to others” if the U.S. Constitution allowed cruel punishment. She said the sentence she imposed was his “death warrant.”
“The appearance of impropriety has been broken at this point,” attorney Malika Ramsey-Heath said Friday.
In July, Aquilina appeared at the ESPY awards in Los Angeles where Nassar’s victims were honored. 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.