Half-Maltese judge Rosemarie Aquilina won worldwide plaudits last night when she sentenced a former US Olympics gymnastics team doctor to 175 years in jail for sexually molesting athletes in his care.
Over the past week, 156 girls and young women have testified in Aquilina’s Michigan courtroom about the abuse they suffered at the hands of Larry Nassar. Yesterday, Aquilina had harsh words for the 54-year-old former doctor as she condemned him to 175 years in jail, a sentence that added to the 60 years he had already received for child pornography.
“As much as it was my honour and privilege to hear the sister survivors, it was my honour and privilege to sentence you, because, sir, you do not deserve to walk outside of a prison ever again,” she told him. “Anywhere you walk, destruction would occur to those most vulnerable. You have not owned yet what you did. I wouldn’t send my dogs to you, sir. I just signed your death warrant.”
Following a week of emotional testimony from his victims, Nassar was given an opportunity to address the packed courtroom.
“What I am feeling pales in comparison to the pain, trauma, and emotional destruction that all of you are feeling,” he said. “There are no words to describe the depth and breadth of how sorry I am for what has occurred.”
However, Judge Aquilina dismissed his plea, revealing Nassar had written a letter to her after his guilty plea claiming his accusers had “fabricated” allegations to gain money and fame and that he had been “manipulated” into admitting his guilt.
“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,” Nassar wrote. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
After reading out the letter, Aquilina tore it up, looked Nassar in the eye and asked him if he was guilty, since he couldn’t admit it to himself even after entering his plea. After lingering for a few seconds, Nassar stammered “I’ve said my plea”.
Aquilina was widely praised for her performance in the courtroom, but she has turned down media requests, insisting that she doesn’t want to be centralised in the story.
“It’s their story,” she said, referring to the sexual abuse victims.