Larry Nassar’s motion to disqualify judge denied
A motion filed by attorneys for Larry Nassar seeking to disqualify Judge Rosemarie Aquilina from presiding over any further proceedings in Nassar’s case was denied Tuesday.
The ruling means Aquilina, who admonished the disgraced former USA Gymnastics doctor during his sentencing, can be involved in matters related to Nassar’s request for resentencing.
Aquilina sentenced Nassar in January to 40 to 175 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to seven counts of sexual misconduct. Before the sentencing, more than 150 women and girls said in court that Nassar had sexually abused them under the guise of providing medical treatment.
Aquilina followed their testimony with an impassioned statement, during which she ripped into the doctor.
“And I want you to know, as much as it was my honor and privilege to hear the survivors, it is my honor and privilege to sentence you,” Aquilina told Nassar. “Because, sir, you do not deserve to walk outside of a prison ever again.”
Nassar’s attorneys argued in their July request for Nassar’s resentencing and Aquilina’s disqualification that the judge had demonstrated bias used the sentencing “as an opportunity to advance her own agenda, including to advocate for policy initiatives within the state as well as the federal legislatures, to push for broader cultural change regarding gender equity and sexual discrimination issues, and, seemingly, as a type of group therapy for the victims.”
In his ruling, Ingham County, Michigan Chief Circuit Court and Probate Judge Richard J. Garcia rejected the claim that Aquilina had demonstrated bias during Nassar’s sentencing.
“Consideration of whether he should be resentenced can be fairly reviewed by the judge uniquely situated to provide justice in this case,” Garcia wrote. “The judge who heard these survivors is the only one who should properly render any re-sentence.”
Garcia also defended the two Aquilina statements that he said appeared to be the crux of Nassar’s argument to disqualify the judge.
Nassar’s attorneys had said that Aquilina should not have referred to the sentencing agreement as Nassar’s “death warrant” nor said that she “would allow someone or many people to do to (Nassar) what he did to others” if the U.S. Constitution allowed “cruel and unusual punishment.”
The death warrant comment, Garcia wrote, only explained that Nassar would spend the rest of his life in jail.
The comment about punishment “simply attempted to impress upon the defendant his good fortune that he was protected by own Constitution,” Garcia wrote. “They also communicated to the survivors that she understood the depth of society’s visceral natural desire for vengeance…Such passionate elocution is not the basis of disqualification.”
Garcia also wrote that Aquilina’s subsequent statements about the case on social media and appearance at the ESPY Awards “do not constitute impermissible bias nor are they evidence of impartiality.”
“Defendant apparently wishes to be resentenced before a judge who is ambivalent about the suffering of victims,” Garcia wrote. “This standard should disqualify any judge with a pulse.”
The office of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette also has backed the judge and called Nassar “arguably the most destructive serial sexual predator in the history of the state, perhaps the country.”
Nassar is expected to begin serving Aquilina’s sentence after serving a 60-year sentence in a federal prison on child pornography charges.
Nassar’s attorneys have not responded to a request for comment.