Larry Nassar thinks sentence for sexual abuse too harsh

July 25, 2018, 12:26 PM

LANSING, Mich. -- Larry Nassar, the convicted serial sexual predator and former Olympic gymnastics doctor, says he was unfairly punished by the judge who sentenced him to a maximum of 175 years in state prison, and he is seeking a new judge and sentencing hearing.

Attorneys from Michigan's appellate defender's office filed the appeal on Nassar's behalf Wednesday morning. The appeal does not attempt to withdraw Nassar's decision to plead guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and does not ask for a new trial. It asks the court to reconsider both the length of his sentence and for Judge Rosemarie Aquilina to recuse herself because she has, Nassar claims, exhibited bias against him.

"Judge Aquilina was admittedly not an unbiased and impartial judge. Resentencing before a different judge is required," the motion from Nassar's attorneys states.

During a seven-day court hearing in January, 169 survivors or their family members testified about Nassar's decades of sexual abuse under the guise of medical treatments. Under the terms of a November 2017 plea deal, Nassar had agreed to allow the survivors to have their stories heard in open court. 

If Judge Aquilina recuses herself and Nassar is granted a new sentencing hearing, it's possible the Nassar survivors could be asked to once again provide victim-impact statements.

"For a narcissistic, convicted pedophile to put these women through this again is horrible," attorney Mick Grewal said Wednesday, adding that a new sentencing hearing will "re-victimize" his clients.

Grewal represents 111 Nassar survivors and said many of his clients would be prepared to testify once again if necessary.

"They will come and they will fight. They are the voices of change," Grewal said.

"All of the enablers, Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee, and now even the perpetrator himself refuse to accept responsibility. This motion shouldn't even be considered by the court," said Sarah Klein, who has identified herself as the first to be sexually abused by Nassar. ESPN does not typically name victims of sexual assault, but Klein and many other survivors have chosen to speak publicly.

Throughout Nassar's January sentencing hearing, Aquilina made several supportive comments to the sexual assault survivors who provided victim impact statements to the court and was often critical of Nassar.

At one point during the sentencing, Aquilina dramatically tossed aside a letter Nassar wrote to the court, saying that he was concerned for his health and felt he was being treated unfairly. She also said from the bench that if the U.S. Constitution did not prohibit cruel and unusual punishment, "I would allow some or many people to do to him what he did to others."

She told Nassar that she had "signed [his] death warrant" upon delivering the sentence.

"Instead of a proceeding to assist the judge in reaching a fair and just sentencing decision, the judge used the nationally televised proceeding as an opportunity to advance her own agenda... and, seemingly as a type of group therapy for the victims," the motion filed by Nassar's attorneys states.

Nassar's appeal argues that Aquilina's actions, coupled with her continued advocacy after the hearing -- including her decision to attend last week's ESPY Awards, where Nassar's survivors were given the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage -- show that the judge was not impartial toward him.

The court motions filed Tuesday also reveal that Nassar's defense attorneys received death threats during the nearly two-week sentencing hearing in Aquilina's courtroom and that Nassar himself was physically attacked in May, shortly after being placed in the general population in the federal prison in Tucson, where he is serving his sentence on child pornography charges.

Nassar pleaded guilty to 10 total counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Michigan -- seven in Aquilina's Ingham County and three others in nearby Eaton County. He admitted to using his position of authority as a well-respected doctor to manipulate young patients and sexually abuse them.

The 54-year-old former doctor is currently serving a 60-year federal prison sentence on child pornography charges. His state prison time would not begin unless he outlives the federal sentence. Nassar was sentenced to up to 125 years in state prison for his crimes in Eaton County. His plea deal in Ingham County stipulates a minimum sentence of 25-40 years, and the appeal does not seek to lower that number.

Grewal said Wednesday that Nassar is "once again trying to manipulate and control people."

"I don't see Judge Aquilina recusing herself. I don't think she did anything wrong," Grewal added.