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MSU Journalism Class Interviews Judge Aquilina About Nassar Case

Reginald Hardwick
WKAR Public Media
Left: Mike Castellucci, veteran journalist & MSU professor; Right: Caitlyn DiLuca, MSU journalism professor

After sentencing Larry Nassar to decades in prison for sexually abusing girls and women, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina did not give her first television interview to a network. Instead, she took questions from journalism students at Michigan State University. 

Ingham county Judge Rose Marie Aquilina gained national notieriety in late Janary when she sentenced former MSU physician Larry Nassar. 

She allowed 150 girls and women that he sexually abused to give victim impact statements during his sentencing.

After the networks left, Judge Aquilina gave her first interview to a class of journalism students at Michigan State University. 

WKAR’s Reginald Hardwick talked with veteran broadcast journalist and MSU journalism professor Mike Castellucci as well as MSU journalism student Caitlin DiLuca, who asked the judge many questions during her visit.

HARDWICK: What were some of the things that you wanted to know and what did you learn?

DiLUCA: Well I really tried to angle my questions specifically to her because obviously its a case. You can't talk about certain details of the case, things are sealed. So I really tried to gear a lot of my questions to her, the way the things made her feel.. like seeing her name on a shirt  that was worn by Natalie Portman on SNL.  How she was really feeling when she did the little 'throw' that's now very famous. It's a meme, it's a .gif. How she felt through all these different parts of the case. I really wanted to explore what kind of affect it had on her and what made it so big.. what made her so big in this case.

HARDWICK: And what was her answer?

DiLUCA: She got pretty emotional at times which was super surprising. There were times when she got pretty choked up. I mean from watching her originally in the courtroom to watching her speak, that's just who she is. She cares very much about people. And she cared very much about those survivors and doing right by them.

HARDWICK: Mike, you're a veteran broadcast journalist, what struck you by this ability to get to know this judge?

CASTELLUCCI: Two things struck me. One was that she wanted to hear from every single survivor. She would stayed there another week... she would have heard everybody she said. She thought it was really important.

In fact, she felt that she was somewhat part of their healing. Because she said they came in there broken and ashamed. And she said literally each time someone stepped to the microphone she could see them release what she called 'a bag of rocks' from them and started to become who they were again. So she felt it was really important.

Second, she said the media is so very important in her courtroom. A lot of judges don't always feel this way... She would always in her courtroom open it up to the media and cameras. 

DiLUCA: She was naming cases that no one talked about in the news. And should have been talking about. But no cameras were in the courtroom, no journalists were in the courtroom. And nothing got talked about. That was kinda jarring for me. In one case she named was about kids who were racially profiled. And she completely throughout the case because cops had absolutely nothing on them.

But no one was in the courtroom so no one talked about it. And that just struck me and kinda made me think okay, no matter what, I don't care how big of a journalist you are, how young, you have to be in these courtrooms, you have to be in these proceedings because you are the watchdogs. You are the people who keep the checks and balances. 

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