Judge denies bid to include child porn in Nassar trial

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — An Ingham County judge refused Friday to allow tens of thousands of images of child pornography to be presented as evidence in an upcoming trial of a former Michigan State University doctor accused of sexually assaulting more than 100 girls.

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina of Ingham County Circuit Court denied a motion from the Michigan Attorney General’s office to include more than 30,000 images of child pornography because she said the evidence would be “highly prejudicial” and unfairly lead the jury to reach a conclusion before weighing all of the evidence.

“After the jury heard about these pictures, the sheer number of them, I think the jury would stop listening and simply convict,” Aquilina said. “And defendant would be convicted a second time for the same offense he’s already pleaded to in federal court. We need to get to the heart of the matter of what’s happened here and to let this information in unfairly prejudices defendant.”

Nassar pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography in federal court and will be sentenced in that case Nov. 27.

Nassar, 54, faces life in prison between the federal child pornography charges he pleaded guilty to and three state felony cases of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Lawyers for state Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office had argued that the evidence was relevant because it would establish a “propensity” for assaulting underage girls.

The images displayed young children of the same age range as the 120 people who allege Nassar sexually assaulted them under the guise of legitimate medical treatment. The images displayed women subjected to sexual assaults similar to those Nassar is accused of, assistant attorneys general argued.

More than 100 women have accused the former gymnastics doctor of digitally penetrating them while they were girls. Nassar has repeatedly denied having vaginally penetrated any of his patients, according to his lawyers, who argued that access to further medical records could demonstrate his innocence.

Shannon Smith, one of Nassar’s attorneys, had argued prior to the judge’s ruling that the images would unfairly prejudice jurors against Nassar.

“There is absolutely no question that when jurors hear that Mr. Nassar possessed 37,000 images of child pornography they will be misled and confused,” Smith said.

Aquilina also denied a motion from Nassar’s attorneys to delay the trail. His lawyers had asked for more time to review thousands of pages of documents before the scheduled jury selection on Dec. 4.

“I don’t see any reason to delay,” Aquilina said.