Meet the Michigan Judge Who Sentenced Larry Nassar to 175 Years: I 'Signed Your Death Warrant'
Michigan judge Rosemarie Aquilina did not mince words on Wednesday when she handed down a lengthy sentence to serial molester Larry Nassar in court
On Wednesday, Michigan judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced disgraced former gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar to up to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing women and girls for several years, and using his high-powered position to do so.
After days of testimony from dozens of Nassar’s victims, Aquilina did not mince words in her own statement just before handing down the lengthy sentence to the man who officials have called “the most prolific child molester in history.”
“I just signed your death warrant,” Aquilina said after announcing the prison terms. “As much as it was my honor and privilege to hear the sister survivors, it is my honor and privilege to sentence you. Because, sir, you do not deserve to walk outside of a prison ever again.”
Aquilina allowed more than 100 women and girls, including several prominent athletes, to address Nassar in court. She listened intently as the women or their representatives read victim impact statements, opening her court room to Nassar’s many victims.
Throughout the hearing, Aquilina’s decision to hear the testimonies emboldened other victims to come forward and speak out at the trial. She has long been a fierce advocate for the survivors and in photos from court appearances, Aquilina has not hid her disgust for Nassar’s crimes.
“I find that you don’t get it, that you’re a danger,” she told Nassar in court. “That you remain a danger.”
Aquilina has drawn praise from social media users, with some calling her “an icon” and “the hero of the day.” Many quoted her numerous scathing remarks directed at Nassar. Regardless, Aquilina asserted on Wednesday that the focus should be on the victims, asserting, “It’s their story.”
The 59-year-old is also an author who has used her legal prowess to pen crime thrillers. She also served 20 years in the Michigan Army National Guard, according to the New York Times. With all of her accomplishments, Aquilina is perhaps most famous for her connection to the years-long effort to take down Nassar.
For months, she has presided over several of Nassar’s court appearances, and in December denied a motion to move Nassar’s trial to another venue, according to WILX. In the weeks since Nassar’s November guilty pleas, Aquilina has put aside the impartial demeanor often associated with judges and has made her compassion for the victims clear.
With that, she did not mince words last week when Nassar complained about the emotional distress that resulted from hearing the victim’s statements.
“Spending four or five days listening to them is significantly minor,” she said then, according to the Times, “considering the hours of pleasure you had at their expense and ruining their lives.”
Just before sentencing Nassar Wednesday afternoon, she was sure to read aloud a letter that Nassar wrote to the court. In it, he defended his behavior and claimed he was manipulated into pleading guilty.
“I was a good doctor because my treatments worked, and those patients that are now speaking out are the same ones that praised and came back over and over,” Nassar wrote. “The media convinced them that everything I did was wrong and bad. They feel I broke their trust. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
Aquilina then asked if he would like to change his plea. Nassar said no.
“You can’t give them back their innocence,” she said. “You played on everyone’s vulnerability. I’m not vulnerable, not to you, not to other criminals at that podium.”