The final sentencing hearing began Wednesday for disgraced former sports doctor Larry Nassar, who will again be confronted by scores of victims as he faces another prison sentence for molesting gymnasts at an elite Michigan club run by an Olympic coach, reports the Associated Press. Judge Janice Cunningham has set aside several days for about 60 people who want to confront Nassar or have their statement read in court. The hearing could unfold as did a hearing last week in another county where a different judge allowed more than 150 women and girls to confront Nassar. That hearing ended with Nassar getting sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison, with the judge describing it as Nassar’s “death warrant.”
The practice of allowing accusers to speak even if they are not tied directly to a case has raised questions about fairness. Attorneys say the victim statements probably pose little risk on appeal, because Nassar pleaded guilty, agreed to allow the statements and is expected to get another long prison sentence as part of his deal with prosecutors. It’s not uncommon for prosecutors to introduce “aggravating” evidence at sentencing to support their request for a severe punishment. The parade of victims offering emotional accounts of their abuse to the face of an abuser went well beyond the typical hearing. A fellow Ingham County judge, William Collette, said Judge Rosemarie Aquilina’s handling of last week’s hearing was “outrageous.” Others, however, have praised her treatment of victims and their parents.