“I support the girls,” Aquilina told The Detroit News on Tuesday. “I said that at the sentencing. Nothing has changed there.”
Aquilina made headlines during Nassar’s second sentencing hearing in January, when she allowed 169 victims and their family members to read impact statements in her Lansing, Michigan, courtroom. She allowed every person to read a statement who wished to do so, stretching the hearing to seven whole days.
“I don’t like girls being shut down. Everyone has the right to be heard,” Aquilina said.
“I’m not fair and impartial. The case is over,” she added, referencing that she couldn’t speak about the case until Nassar’s appeal to her sentencing was over. “No judge is fair and impartial (after the verdict). That’s for before the sentencing.”
After each survivor spoke, Aquilina reiterated that the abuse was not their fault and instructed the survivors, many of whom were young women, to leave their trauma and pain in court with her.
“You are worthy,” she told a survivor named Danielle Moore on the first day of the hearing. “This was done to you. It was not done by you.”
To another survivor, she said: “Leave your pain here and go out and do your magnificent things.”
At the conclusion of the hearing, Aquilina said it was her “honor and privilege” to sentence Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison for crimes involving the sexual abuse of young girls. After Nassar’s third sentencing hearing on additional child pornography and child sexual abuse charges, over 265 people had accused him of sexually abusing them under the guise of medical treatment.
When asked if Michigan State University’s interim president John Engler and other trustees should step down in light of the way the university had mishandled the Nassar scandal, Aquilina reiterated her support for the survivors.
“I won’t get into a political mess. I’m supporting the girls,” she said.
Some criticized Aquilina for being so outspoken during the hearing, citing a moment at the beginning of the trial where she suggested Nassar deserved sexual abuse himself for his crimes. She also said the now-infamous words, “I’ve just signed your death warrant,” after sentencing Nassar.
“Judge Aquilina, I applaud you,” the father of one survivor told Aquilina after his daughter read her impact statement in court. “We applaud you. This room applauds you.”