The Larry Nassar trial has shed a bright light on how institutions sometimes enable powerful and influential sexual predators, as more than 140 women have come forward to accuse the former Team USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor of abusing them. The judge on Nassar's case in Ingham County Circuit Court has vowed to let every one of his alleged victims testify as part of the doctor's sentencing. So it's safe to say that without Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, Nassar's trial would look very different.
Aquilina has appeared to be a pillar of support and encouragement for the women Nassar allegedly abused throughout the trial. The New York Times has labelled her "a fierce advocate," and ESPN has praised her "compassion and powerful personal responses" to the victims and their families.
"Leave your pain here and go out and do your magnificent things," the Times reported Aquilina told one woman after she spoke against Nassar.
Indeed, Aquilina seems to be at least partially responsible for the growing number of women willing to speak out against Nassar. According to Michigan Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis, 88 victims had initially planned to speak at Nassar's sentencing hearing; this week, more than 140 were set to give statements, including Olympic gymnasts Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber, and McKayla Maroney.
But Aquilina's judicial career began long before Nassar's trial. Prior to her election to the 30th Circuit Court in Ingham County, Michigan, in 2008, Aquilina served four years as a judge in the 55th District Court. There, Aquilina served as both chief judge and as sobriety court judge. She also teaches as an adjunct professor at Thomas M. Cooley Law School and at Michigan State University School of Law and at one point even hosted Ask the Family Lawyer, a syndicated radio talk show.
In 2006, Aquilina retired from the Judge Advocate General's Corps, or JAG Corps, a special branch of the military focused on military justice and law. At the time of her enlistment in 1986, she was the first female JAG Officer in Michigan's Army National Guard. According to her biography with the Ingham County Circuit Court, Aquilina was also one of the most requested JAG Officers "because of her dedication to service and the soldiers she served with."
Yet there's so much more to the judge than what we see from her on the bench. Along with being a judge, a professor, and a former radio show host, Aquilina is also a crime fiction writer. Fiery Seas Publishing released Triple Cross Killer, the first book in Aquilina's State Detective Special Forces series, late last year. The book follows a pair of Detroit detectives as they try to find a killer who stole abused childrens' letters to Santa Claus. According to an interview Aquilina gave to book blogger Too Full To Write, the second book in the series is nearly finished and a third is already in the works.
Despite her busy schedule — did you know that Aquilina is also a mother of five? — Aquilina squeezes in time to write in every available moment she can find, often drawing on people she knows or has met in real life to build her characters and stories. As she told the Lansing State Journal:
It's my stress reliever. I write on my lunch hours. I write on my breaks. I write at 2 a.m. when a character wakes me up. I write and then go back to sleep.
In fact, for Aquilina, writing has become a good means of counteracting the isolation that can sometimes come with being a judge. Speaking again to the Lansing State Journal:
Being a judge becomes so isolating. ... When I'm with my characters, I'm having fun. My characters become my friends.