Defense lawyers for disgraced former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State doctor Larry Nassar have asked that he get a new sentencing hearing in one of his criminal cases because, the lawyers believe, the judge who oversaw it made numerous statements that showed she had made up her mind beforehand. The lawyers also wrote in their motions that they feel Judge Rosemarie Aquilina’s behavior led to Nassar being assaulted in prison.
Nassar has been sentenced three times: once in federal court, once in a state court in Ingham County, and lastly in another state court in Eaton County. These motions are only related to the sentencing in Ingham, which also is the one that drew the most attention after more than 150 women all said in court that Nassar had sexually abused them and then went into great detail about how that abuse impacted their lives. During the sentencing, Aquilina would sometimes speak from the bench after a woman had given her statement, and Aquilina spoke again before sentencing Nassar as well. Her comments were some of the most quoted parts of Nassar’s sentencing—and they are key to the requests from Nassar’s lawyers.
The requests are made in two motions, one asking for Aquilina to be disqualified from the case, and another asking for a new sentencing hearing. There are differences between the two motions but they share many key points and quotes from Aquilina. Both argue that Aquilina’s words and actions during and after the hearing show her bias and violated the constitution, state laws, and judicial canons. One comment that is brought up is when Aquilina appeared to endorse prison rape. Here is how I transcribed the comment at the time:
Our constitution does not allow for cruel and unusual punishment. 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.
As part of their arguments, the lawyers note that Aquilina said she saw what people were saying on social media. They say that Aquilina did not stop people from calling out their support for the women from the gallery, and add that she said nothing to stop people from disparaging Nassar’s previous lawyers, who had to be there because of his constitutional right to defense counsel. They write in the motion for disqualification that Aquilina has given interviews since and appeared, along with prosecutors, at the ESPYs when ESPN presented an award to the Nassar survivors.
“Further, the judge allowed the proceeding to devolve into a free-for-all,” the motion for disqualification states, “in which speakers were given free reign to denigrate the defendant, sometimes in profane terms; to wish physical harm upon the defendant; to disparage and ridicule his constitutional rights, including his right to counsel; to accuse entities and institutions of wrongdoing; and even to accuse uncharged individuals of wrongdoing and crimes, including for their incarceration or other punishment.”
Both motions also say that Nassar has been assaulted in prison. The motions give few details beyond saying in the request for disqualification that “Dr. Nassar reports, that in late May he was physically attacked in federal prison within a few hours of being placed in general population.” In the other motion, a footnote says that this shows “Judge Aquilina’s efforts to demonize Dr. Nassar in front of the entire world were successful.”
A hearing on the requests is scheduled for Aug. 3. Both motions are in full below: