Judge Rosemarie Aquilina emerged as a star in the trial of disgraced former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar after giving his victims days to tell their stories of abuse before handing him a sentence of up to 175 years in prison.
“As much as it was my honor and privilege to hear the sister survivors, it is my honor and privilege to sentence you. Because, sir, you do not deserve to walk outside of a prison ever again,” the judge said during Nassar’s sentencing on Wednesday.
Aquilina, a judge for the 30th Circuit Court of Ingham County, Michigan, sentenced Nassar to between 40 and 175 years in prison for sexually abusing the women and girls he treated.
Aquilina rose to prominence in the past week as an advocate for the more than 150 women and girls who testified against Nassar and detailed instances of rape and abuse. Aquilina vowed to let every victim speak, giving them encouragement by saying things like “You are so strong and brave.” She scolded Nassar for writing a letter saying it was too distressing to hear days of testimony against him.
“Spending five or six days listening to them is significantly minor, considering the thousands of hours of pleasure you had at their hands, ruining their lives,” Aquilina said at the time.
The judge served in the Michigan Army National Guard, according to a 2014 article about her in the Washtenaw County Legal News. The judge has held many roles in her life, among them crime novel writer and law professor at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School. As a professor, according to her LinkedIn page, she taught classes about “defending battered women” and “child abuse and neglect.” Her nickname in the military was “Barracuda Aquilina,” according to the Legal News profile.
She has been involved in widely watched cases. In 2013, she ruled that Detroit’s bankruptcy filing was unconstitutional and sent her judgment to President Barack Obama.
Asked why she had been assigned such high-profile cases, she told the Legal News, “The computer does it…. God’s giving them to me—if anybody is. I think certain things are put in your hands.”