Performance justice

Yesterday, a Michigan judge sentenced Larry Nassar, the USA gymnastics physician who sexually assaulted 150 women, to a 175-year prison term. Good. The punishment fits the crime.

However, the judge, Rosemary Aquilina, meted out the sentence in a disturbing, over-the-top performance. She couldn’t stop talking about herself. We heard about her family, her dogs, her ethnic background (Maltese and German, in case you were wondering), her military service, her soccer coaching. We heard boasting: “I’m not vulnerable, not to you,” “I am well trained,” “I know exactly what to do,” “I’ve done my homework, I always do,” “I look at myself as Lady Justice.” On the other hand, “I’m not special” and “I’m not nice.” And “I don’t have many friends.”

The judge couldn’t stop saying “I.” To an excessive degree, this was about her. “It is my honor and privilege to sentence you,” she declared

Judge Aquilina signaled her virtue by assuring us she believes in rehabilitation. She found, however, that Nasser is beyond rehabilitation.

What is the basis for this finding? I heard none. In fact, her condemnation of Nasser for not seeking treatment that could have “controlled his urges” is at odds with her view that Nasser is beyond rehabilitation.

Rehabilitation isn’t the point. Nasser’s sentence is proper whether or not he could be rehabilitated. The judge’s reference to her belief in rehabilitation was just more posturing.

Egomania and grandstanding are not uncommon on the bench. However, Aquilina’s performance was, I hope, off-the-charts.

But the most disturbing aspect of the performance was the rhetoric she directed at Nasser. “I [that word again] just signed your death sentence,” she bragged And this:

Our Constitution does not allow for cruel and unusual punishment. If it did, I have to say, I might allow what he did to all of these beautiful souls, these young women in their childhood, I would allow some or many people to do to him what he did to others.

Allahpundit paraphrases this statement as follows: “If not for this damned Constitution, a little prison rape would be in order.” The paraphrasing is fair. The sentiment is one a judge should never utter.

Will Aquilini’s injudicious behavior provide a basis for overturning her sentence? I suspect it will not. But that outcome won’t make her conduct any less disturbing.

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