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An inspiring example

US Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina delivered a powerful statement last week to former gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar before sentencing him to 175 years behind bars for sexually abusing more than 150 young girls under his medical care.

“I just signed your death warrant,” Aquilina said, addressing Nassar.

In her statement, the judge also read parts of a letter Nassar had written in court to defend himself.

“I was a good doctor because my treatments worked and those patients that are now speaking out were the same ones that praised and came back over and over and referred family and friends to see me,” the judge said, quoting Nassar’s letter. “The media convinced them that everything I did was wrong and bad. They feel I broke their trust. Hell hath not fury like a woman scorned.”

Dropping the letter with obvious disgust, the judge told Nassar: “It was not treatment, what you did. It was not medical.”

“You do not deserve to walk outside a prison ever again,” she told Nassar as she passed sentence upon him. “You have done nothing to control those urges and anywhere you walk, destruction will occur to those most vulnerable.”

The sentence capped a grueling 16-month case, including seven days of hearings in a Michigan courtroom where more than 150 women and girls—many confronting him face-to-face--recounted how they were abused by Nassar.

When the hearing ended, the courtroom broke out into applause, with victims and prosecutors embracing in the belief that justice had been done.

The case was remarkable and instructive in so many ways, including how so many victims were able to directly confront their abuser, and how unambiguous the judge was in passing sentence.

By local standards, where trials can drag on for years, the 16 months the Nassar case took seem swift in comparison.

But even more remarkable in this instance was the role a free press played in bringing Nassar to justice.

After the sentencing, a Michigan prosecutor said Nassar would still be sexually abusing girls if not for the work of an Indiana newspaper that helped to expose the abuse.

“We as a society need investigative journalists more than ever,” Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis told the judge at Nassar’s sentencing hearing.

The case began with a 2016 Indianapolis Star investigation of how USA Gymnastics handled sexual abuse allegations against coaches. That prompted former gymnast Rachael Denhollander to alert the newspaper to Nassar’s abuse.

Povilaitis told the judge that without Denhollander and the newspaper, Nassar “would still be practicing medicine, treating athletes and abusing kids.”

“We know federal law enforcement did not stop him, nor did trainers or coaches or dean or medical supervisors… But thank God we have these journalists and that they exposed this truth and that they continued to cover the story,” Povilaitis said.

In this country, too, we need investigative journalists more than ever, given the Duterte administration’s goal of bringing corruption to an end. The President’s misguided allies, who are itching to muzzle the press by monkeying with the Constitution, should keep that in mind.

Topics: US Circuit Court , Judge , Rosemarie Aquilina , delivered , powerful , statement , gymnastics , doctor , Larry Nassar

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