What to Know
- Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced ex-Dr. Larry Nassar in a Michigan courtroom in January to 40 to 175 years for molesting girls.
- Aquilina consistently chastised Larry Nassar and comforted his victims in the courtroom, turning heads for her language.
- Aquilina said "the case is over" and only needs to be "fair and impartial" before the sentencing.
The judge who said it was her "honor and privilege" to sentence ex-Dr. Larry Nassar to up to 175 years for molesting young girls under the guise of medical treatment is speaking out and continuing to stand by the victims months after Nassar's verdict.
Judge Rosemarie Aquilina spoke to the Detroit News Tuesday in her first interview since the sentencing. She gained attention for allowing more than 150 victims to offer statements and responding to each one in the marathon seven-day hearing in January.
"I support the girls," she told The News. "I said that at the sentencing. Nothing has changed there."
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Aquilina consistently chastised Nassar and comforted his victims in the courtroom. She turned heads for her pointed language when handing down her sentence for Nassar, who had pleaded guilty to counts of sexually assaulting girls.
"I just signed your death warrant," she told Nassar from the bench. "It is my honor and privilege to sentence you."
However, Aquilina has continued championing his victims outside the courtroom, retweeting blog posts seeking justice and empowering the army of "sister survivors" on Facebook, The News reported.
Critics questioned whether Aquilina's language and behavior undermined the pursuit of justice. Criminal defense attorney Anne E. Gowen, writing for Time, said Aquilina's choices in court represent "a warning to future defendants that the judiciary and vigilante justice are not as separate as one might have believed," adding that determining someone's fate is a "solemn responsibility." And others wondered how it would affect a possible appeal, should Nassar choose to pursue one before the July deadline.
Aquilina defended her advocacy, saying she no longer needs to be "fair and impartial" once the verdict is reached.
"The case is over," she told the publication. "No judge is fair and impartial (after the verdict). That’s for before the sentencing."
She added that she wasn't concerned her continued advocacy would affect a potential appeals process.
Aquilina also took on Michigan State University after a contentious board of trustees meeting last week, when an abuse victim of Nassar claimed the school interim president pressured her to accept a settlement payoff. Aquilina said the woman, Kaylee Lorincz, should have been allowed more time to address the school officials.
"I don’t like girls being shut down," Aquilina said Tuesday. "Everyone has the right to be heard.”
However, she declined to weigh in on whether there should be more shakeups in MSU leadership, instead keeping the focus on the victims.
"I won't get into a political mess," she told The News. "I’m supporting the girls."
Both the president and athletic director of MSU have resigned from their posts in the fallout of Nassar's abuse scandal, and the Michigan attorney general has launched an investigation into his work at the university.