Team USA Assault Scandal: We Need More Judges like Aquilina and Cunningham
BY: ZSHEKINAH COLLIER
Content warning: sexual assault
Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastic and Michigan State University doctor, will spend the rest of his life behind bars thanks to Judge Rosemarie Aquilina and Judge Janice Cunningham, CNN reported.
Nassar was found guilty of sexually abusing his patients. He molested and assaulted more than 100 girls and young women and disguised it as “medical treatment,” reports say. On top of serving 60 years in federal prison for possession of child pornography, Judge Aquilina on Jan. 24 sentenced Nassar to a maximum of 175 years at Michigan State Prison for multiple counts of sexual assault. He was sentenced again on Feb. 5 to 125 years maximum in Eaton County by Judge Cunningham. The state and county sentences will run simultaneously if Nassar finishes the federal sentence.
During the seven-day state hearing, Aquilina allowed 156 survivors to give testimonies, making sure Nassar and everyone else in the courtroom heard their stories, reported CNN. In a letter to the judge, Nassar complained about the volume and length of the young women’s statements. Aquilina was not moved and let testimonies continue.
Nassar read an apology to the young women. "An acceptable apology to all of you is impossible to write and convey. I will carry your words with me for the rest of my days," he read in front of the courtroom. In his apology, Nassar also said the survivors’ words “had shaken him to his core.”
Before sentencing, Aquilina read aloud parts of the letter Nassar submitted during the hearing, reported CNN. In the letter, Nassar stated:
"I was a good doctor because my treatments worked, and those patients that are now speaking out are the same ones that praised and came back over and over. The media convinced them that everything I did was wrong and bad. They feel I broke their trust. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."
Aquilina told Nassar, “you still don’t get it” and tossed aside his letter, according to CNN. Aquilina said it was her “honor and privilege” to sentence him.“ I just signed your death warrant,” she said after sentencing the now-disgraced doctor.
Judge Cunningham allowed further testimony and concluded sentencing with similar sentiments as Aquilina, reported CNN. She was not convinced that, even after the third sentence, Nassar really understood the devastating impact he had on so many lives. "I do not believe that you will have the ability to shut out the words of the children, and the young women and the adults who trusted you and who you let down,” said Cunningham. "That will be your lifetime consequence."
Judges Aquilina and Cunningham created a space for everyone's voice to be heard and made a difference in the victims' lives. “Speak out like these survivors, become part of the army,” said Judge Aquilina, encouraging other survivors to come forward. It's important to have female judges in the courtroom like Aquilina and Cunningham so men like Larry Nassar will be held accountable for the pain they inflict on others.