Maybe it’s because this week we’ve been putting the final touches on the Revenge issue of Bitch magazine, but I am filled with fire and fury toward those who are taking space to criticize the behavior of Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, the judge in Larry Nassar’s trial.
This week, former USA Gymnastics national team doctor and Michigan State University osteopathic physician Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison. Judge Rosemarie Aquilina allowed 163 of Nassar’s victims to deliver victim impact statements in front of Nassar before she sentenced him.
Nassar was not on trial this week as he listened to the words of the people he preyed upon; he had already pleaded guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct. He had already pleaded guilty to child pornography charges and been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison. Per the terms of his plea deal, he had already admitted that he used his position of trust as a doctor to sexually abuse young girls.
During sentencing, Judge Aquilina delivered a powerful statement to Nassar. She said:
“Your decision to assault was precise, calculated, manipulated, devious, despicable, I don’t have to add words because your survivors have said all of that, I don’t want to repeat it. You cannot give them back their innocence, their youth, you can’t give a father back his life. One of your victims, her life and she took it. You can’t return a daughter to a mother, a father to a daughter. You played on everyone’s vulnerability.
I’m not vulnerable to you or to criminals. I swore to hold the Constitution and law and I am well-trained. I know exactly what to do. This time, I am going to cure it. 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. Because, sir, you do not deserve to walk outside of a prison ever again. You have done nothing to control those urges and anywhere you walk, destruction will occur to those most vulnerable.”
There are already several think pieces accusing Judge Aquilina of being “problematic” and “disgraceful,” taking umbrage with the cold bluntness of her statement and the pleasure and pride she seemed to take in sentencing Nassar.
Statements by the survivors have been extraordinary. A judge performing like this leaves me cold. https://t.co/L7enXJvOnL
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) January 24, 2018
There was never a question of Nassar’s guilt. Yes, judges are expected to act as impartial overseers in their courts, but not during sentencing. The victim impact statements from Nassar’s victims were not only for Nassar’s ears, they were also for Judge Aquilina to consider as she determined his sentence. It is her task to determine the appropriate punishment based on his crimes and how his victims say his crimes have affected their lives. She represents the people.
Judge Aquilina’s statement came after she read aloud portions from a letter Nassar wrote before sentencing. That letter accused his victims of lying, and seeking attention and money through their statements against him. Nassar even suggested that he had not actually violated them at all:
“I was a good doctor, because my treatments worked and those patients that are now speaking out were the same ones that praised and came back over and over. And referred family and friends to see me. The media convinced them that everything I did was wrong and bad. They feel I have broken their trust. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. It is just a complete nightmare. The stories that are being fabricated to sensationalize this.”
If Judge Aquilina was harsh or brutal in her words to Nassar, it’s because she, too, heard the 163 women speak about how Nassar victimized and brutalized them. Rachael Denhollander, the first of Nassar’s victims to speak about his actions publicly, told the Court that Nassar found “sexual satisfaction in our suffering” and “Larry was sexually aroused by our humiliation and our pain.” Judge Aquilina expressed disgust, because Nassar is disgusting.
And here’s where revenge comes in. Nassar preyed upon young girls for decades. He was reported by his victims, who were ignored and told that they had misunderstood their abuse.
He was protected by layers upon layers of officials, administrators, and bureaucrats that maintained his access to victims.
This week, Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon resigned because of criticism that she mishandled the accusations of Nassar. Today, the entire USA Gymnastics board resigned as well. Good. If this moment is a reckoning, then all the guilty heads must roll.
Nassar is guilty by his own admission. So what if Judge Aquilina and Nassar’s victims took revenge on him? Revenge is about reclaiming a justice denied, one that was denied to Nassar’s hundreds of victims for decades. Asking those who helped him finally face justice to stop celebrating the fact that he will no longer be able to prey on young girls is an unnecessary exercise in sympathy for the devil.
As Kyle Stephens, one of the women who spoke against him said about the moment Nassar was led away in handcuffs: “My monster is gone.”