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‘It is finally over’: MI Supreme Court denies Larry Nassar’s final appeal

Larry Nassar
Nassar’s attorneys cited Judge Rosemarie Aqualina’s incendiary remarks as examples of her bias, saying it unfairly shaped the sentencing hearing.

The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday rejected a final appeal from Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor who was accused of sexually assaulting hundreds of girls and young women under the guise of providing medical care. 

Nassar’s attorneys said the trial judge displayed unfair bias at his 2018 sentencing hearing, and argued he deserved a new one. Remarks by Ingham County Judge Rosemarie Aquilina drew criticism from several legal experts, even though the sentence she imposed was within the parameters of Nassar’s plea deal.  

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The court's denial comes nearly six years after former gymnast Rachael Denhollander’s original police report accusing the sports physician of sexual assault.

Judge Aquilina gained national attention during the case, often because of incendiary comments she made to or about Nassar. 

“Our Constitution does not allow for cruel and unusual punishment,” the judge said at one point. “If it did … I would allow some or many people to do to him what he did to others.”

Aquilina also assured one women that “the monster who took advantage of you is going to wither, much like the scene in The Wizard of Oz where the water gets poured on the witch and the witch withers away.”

In its order rejecting Nassar’s appeal, the high court indicated it too had concerns about the judge’s conduct. But, it concluded, “We decline to expend additional judicial resources and further subject the victims in this case to additional trauma where the questions at hand present nothing more than an academic exercise.”

Nassar pled guilty in Ingham County to sexually assaulting seven gymnasts and other athletes in 2018, earning a 40 to 175-year prison sentence in the Ingham County court. That was only one of three lengthy prison sentences he received, effectively ensuring Nassar would die behind bars. 

“I just signed your death warrant,” Aquilina told Nassar while issuing his sentence.  

Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison on child pornography charges, punishment he must complete before the state terms are served. 

For former gymnast and competitive cheerleader Ashley Erickson, Friday’s order brought a feeling of relief, but was accompanied by frustration that there was another appeal at all. 

“I’m thankful that the courts once again held up their end and are going to keep him in prison, but I am still frustrated with him,” Erickson told Bridge Michigan Friday.  “He keeps doing this and just pulls us on the edge of our seats over and over again.” 

Erickson said Nassar’s multiple appeal attempts “revictimizes us (survivors) every single time.”

“I just wish that he would live and let things be and accept his sentencing,” Erickson said, which would have given her and other survivors the opportunity to move on and get proper treatment and healing. 

Another woman, Jennifer Hayes, a former figure skater, told Bridge she was grateful "we don't have to go back to court to do that all over again. Us sister survivors and families are all still healing from the lifelong emotional scars of testifying and sentencing from 4-5 years ago."

Hayes, like the justices, noted the long federal prison term Nassar must serve before the state punishments ever come into play. "So, we know and are at peace that he will never molest another woman or child in his lifetime again." 

 

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Attorney Angie Povilaitis, the lead prosecutor on the Nassar case, took to Twitter Friday to talk about the case and spoke directly to Nassar’s survivors. 

“It is finally over here in Michigan,” she wrote. “I hope a weight has been lifted & you can find peace knowing #Nassar plea agreements have been upheld.”  

More than 100 women who said they were assaulted by Nassar filed a lawsuit against the FBI, accusing the bureau of failing to probe Nassar after becoming aware of allegations against him. 

In addition, MSU agreed to pay $500 million to more than 300 survivors. There was an additional $380 million settlement made with USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

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