Nassar appeals Eaton County sex assault sentence
Lawyers for serial pedophile Larry Nassar have filed taken another step in his appeal by filing a third motion this week for resentencing, this time in in Eaton County Circuit Court.
The motion requests a new sentence and, if that fails, to change it to run concurrently, as opposed to consecutively, with two other prison terms.
Nassar also seeks to have the appeal heard by a judge other than Eaton County Judge Janice Cunningham, who handed Nassar a 40-125 year sentence for three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct earlier this year after two days of victim impact statements.
That hearing came on the heels of a hearing in Ingham County Circuit Court in which more than 150 young women testified over seven days about being abused by Nassar, who pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Nassar was sentenced to 40-175 years on the Ingham County charges.
Earlier, Nassar pleaded guilty in federal court to possessing 37,000 images of child pornography and was sentenced to 60 years, which he is serving in a prison in Tucson, Arizona.
"Defendant recognizes that it is a high hurdle to obtain resentencing based on the emotional nature of a victim impact statement," Nassar's attorneys wrote, "but here the sentencing court was asked to impose the highest possible minimum term under the plea agreement not just based on the victims' and other speakers' emotional reaction to the sentencing offenses, but based on all sorts of factors beyond the individual circumstances of the offender and the offenses for which he was being sentenced.
"Numerous speakers during the victim impact statements did not limit themselves to explaining to the court the impact of the defendant's conduct on them but went on to call for change to the legal system, Michigan State University, the United States Gymnastics Association, the United States Olympic Committee and/or even the nation's culture, as well as to call for punishment for other uncharged entities and individuals. One speaker even expressed that: 'MSU should get the death penalty.'"
The latest appeal comes a week after Nassar's attorneys, Malaika Ramsey-Heath and Jacqueline McCann, filed an appeal of his sentence in Ingham County and also asked Judge Rosemarie Aquilina to recuse herself, saying she was biased. Aquilina denied the recusal motion. His lawyers appealed the decision to the Ingham County chief judge.
Meanwhile, a Georgia-based attorney, Amy Lee Copeland, requested in May that Nassar's federal sentence for possessing child pornography be recalculated, arguing that federal sentencing guidelines were not correctly applied and resulted in a much higher sentence than he deserved.
In the latest motion, Nassar's lawyers argue that he should be resentenced because his sentencing hearing was tainted with "calls for broad legal and cultural change and other ... factors, and thereby departed from the principles of due process including individualized sentencing," according to the court documents.
"Due process of law requires that punishment be based on accurate information and individualized to the particular circumstances of the offense and the offender," according to the court documents.
The motion defines the principle of individualized sentencing with language from another court case.
"The modem view of sentencing is that the sentence should be tailored to the particular circumstances of the case and the offender in an effort to balance both society's need for protection and its interest in maximizing the offender's rehabilitative potential," Nassar's attorneys wrote. "While the resources allocated for rehabilitation may be inadequate and some persons question whether rehabilitation can be achieved in the prison setting, this view of sentencing is the present policy of the state."
The attorneys added that individualized sentencing is violated "where a sentencing judge is motivated by the need to 'send a message to the community' and/or a desire to express disagreement with the Legislature or other judges about the seriousness of a particular category of offenses rather than limiting his or her focus to the offender and circumstances of the offense before him or her."
Cunningham has "already been exposed to the improper factors and can be reasonably expected to have substantial difficulty in putting these out of her mind," Nassar's attorneys wrote.
"Re-assignment is advisable to preserve the appearance of justice."
A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Sept. 6 at 1:30 p.m.