People Are Calling Judge Aquilina ICONIC For The Way She Handled Larry Nassar's Hearing

25 January 2018, 14:25

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, Larry Nassar, Sentencing
Picture: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Katie Louise-Smith

By Katie Louise-Smith

WARNING: This article contains distressing details.

If you've been on the internet over the past few days, you'll have probably seen the name of Judge Rosemarie Aquilina popping up on your timeline. Who is she? What did she do? Why is so amazing?

Judge Aquilina recently presided over the sentencing of Larry Nassar, the former USA gymnastics doctor who sexually abused over 150 young female athletes under the guise of medical treatment. On Wednesday, he was sentenced to up to 175 years in jail by Aquilina and now, thousands of people are praising the incredible way she handled his sentencing.

(Note: Judge Aquilina presided over Nassar's sentencing, not his trial. He had already plead guilty to assault and had already been sentenced to 60 years in jail for possession of child pornography.)

CNN

Prior to the start of the sentencing, Aquilina invited every single woman who came forward with stories of abuse at the hands of Nassar to address him directly in court. She encouraged them to "leave [their] pain here," and made sure that their voices were the ones that were heard and reported on.

When she announced that she was doing this, Nassar called her out in a letter saying that she wanted to turn the hearing to a "media circus" with the cameras solely focused on her. The gag is... he couldn't have been more wrong.

Over 150 survivors, mothers, fathers and coaches ended up speaking, one by one, and not once did the media cameras stay focused on Aquilina's face - or Nassar's, for that matter. It stayed on each and every survivor and by letting them directly address Nassar, she gave those survivors back their power and their voice.

In doing so, she also made sure that the image of these incredible, strong and resilient women ended up as the face of the case as opposed to the monster who abused them.

When the time came for Nassar to sit through 150+ testimonies from the young girls he sexually assaulted, he reportedly hated it. In the letter he sent to Aquilina two months after he pleaded guilty, he even suggested that it was unfair on him to have to listen to stories that, in his words, are being "fabricated to sensationalise [the hearing]."

Judge Aquilina was having none of it and she made no effort to hide her disgust. “Spending four or five days listening to them is minor, considering the hours of pleasure you’ve had at their expense, ruining their lives,” she told him, with no fucks given.

Having a judge like Judge Aquilina presiding over a sexual abuse sentencing hearing as high profile as this was so incredibly important. Thanks to her conviction and blunt words, she's now been named a hero by spectators of the hearing and those who testified against their abuser.

Olympian Simone Biles, one of the survivors, hailed Judge Aquilina as her hero.

People are calling her handling of the sentencing one of the most important moments in the #MeToo movement.

"I wouldn't send my dogs to you, sir."

“You do not deserve to walk outside a prison ever again.”

This is a perfect example of what happens when you put women in charge.

Award-winning.

Even this gif of Judge Aquilina tossing Nassar's letter to the side has become iconic.

After each and every testimony from the survivors, Aquilina addressed them directly, lifted them up and thanked them. She made the point of raising every single survivor in that room.

“The military has not yet come up with fiber as strong as you,” she told Bailey Lorencen, calling her a “heroine” and a “superhero.” She then added: “Mattel ought to make toys so that little girls can look at you and say, ‘I want to be her.’ Thank you so much for being here, and for your strength.”

Then she sentenced Nassar to 175 years in prison, which she said was an "honor and a privilege."

She sent a clear message to every single child molester and sexual abuser out there. And she set a precedent in how sentencings like this could be, and should be, carried out. She even blocked the release of Nassar's full letter to the media because she felt his words would further re-victimise the survivors who bravely shared their story at the hearing. They, the survivors, will have the last word.

At the end of her statement to Nassar, she stated that she would be rejecting interviews because this story is simply not hers to tell. If she does speak to the media, she will always have a survivor with her because it is their story.