Disgraced US Olympic doctor sentenced to 175 years in prison, people are praising the judge
Over 140 women have accused U.S. Olympic doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse. His victims included several Olympic gymnasts, like Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas. As team doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, he gained the girls' trust and then abused them during exams under the guise of medical treatment.
The victims told coaches, parents and trainers about the abuse, but they did nothing. "I knew that he abused me. I reported it," said gymnast Amanda Thomashow in her impact statement. “Michigan State University had the audacity to tell me I did not understand the difference between sexual assault and a medical procedure."
During an emotional seven day hearing, Judge Rosemarie Aqualina allowed 169 survivors and family members to confront Nassar face-to-face. One by one, they delivered powerful testimony. "Little girls don’t stay little forever," said Kyle Stephens, in her victim impact statement. "They turn into strong women that return to destroy your world."
And how right she was! Today justice was finally served. "I’ve just signed your death warrant," said Judge Rosemarie Aqualina, as she sentenced Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison for seven counts of criminal sexual conduct. That means he'll spend the rest of his life behind bars. But this wasn't just another sentencing. People are praising the Judge for her strong performance, calling her blunt, scorching criticism of the disgraced doctor "one of the most powerful #MeToo moments of 2018."
In the courtroom, Nassar responded to his victims, and seemed apologetic. "I will carry your words with me for the rest of my days," he told the survivors. "Your words these past several days have had a significant emotional effect on myself and has shaken me to my core. I also recognize what I’m feeling pales in comparison to the pain, trauma and emotional destruction you are all feeling."
However, after Nassar spoke, Judge Aqualina read a letter that he sent the previous week. In this letter, he denied the charges against him, defended himself as "a good doctor," complained about being forced into a plea agreement, and claimed the stories of abuse were "fabricated" by women were just seeking money from lawsuits. And Judge Aqualina was not having it. In an instantly iconic moment, she literally tossed his letter aside, asking "Would you like to withdraw your plea?"
"You have not yet owned what you did," said Judge Aqualina. "You still think somehow you are right, that you are a doctor, that you don't have to listen, and that you did treatment? I wouldn't send my dogs to you, sir."
"It was not treatment what you did. It was not medical," continued the Judge. "As much as it was my honor and privilege to hear the sister survivors, it was my honor and privilege to sentence you. Because, sir, you do not deserve to walk outside of a prison ever again." She went on describe his actions as "precise, calculated, manipulative, devious, [and] despicable."
Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles thanked Judge Aquilina on Twitter, writing, "YOU ARE MY HERO." Then she gave a "shout out to all of the survivors for being so brave & speaking like the queens you are while looking at that monster. He will no longer have the power to steal our happiness or joy."
Nassar pleaded guilty to the crimes on November 22, and is already serving a 60-year sentence on federal child pornography charges. (According to court documents, he possessed over 37,000 images.) And he still faces sentencing for three more criminal sexual conduct crimes in Michigan. So, Simone Biles calling him a monster is hardly an exaggeration.
On Twitter, people rallied around Judge Aquilina, calling her a "great example of what happens when women are in charge." One user praised her for forcing Nassar to listen to testimony and statements from all of the women he assaulted, "which didn't have to happen." And many users singled out the Judge's letter-tossing moment, calling it cathartic, "Tony-worthy" and emblematic of the #MeTooMovement. As one woman put it, "Let 2018 be the year of women throwing trash men out of Congress, the media, Hollywood, the Courts, the service sector, and society."
After this charismatic performance, journalists from all over the world have contacted Judge Aquilina, requesting an interview. However, she won't make any public comments until after Nassar's appeal. Also, she refuses to speak to the press without any of his victims present, because it is "their story."
It's great to see such an inspiring hero emerge from a story about such a despicable villain.