What is the point of an apology?

There are circumstances where saying “I’m sorry” is appropriate. You bumped into someone on the sidewalk, you say it, it means something because you’re expressing regret at an accident, you didn’t mean to do it, you don’t want to ever do it again. We can believe it.

But there’s another kind of sorry, the one where you’ve done something intentionally, repeatedly, and would have kept doing it if someone hadn’t stopped you — your primary regret was that you were caught. Yet we treat these kinds of cases as if they were similar to the “oops, excuse me, I didn’t mean to step on your toes” sort of case. We still expect an apology — a completely meaningless, pointless apology.

Like the Larry Nassar story. The judge seems to get it.

The former sports doctor who admitted molesting some of the nation’s top gymnasts for years was sentenced Wednesday to 40 to 175 years in prison as the judge declared: “I just signed your death warrant.”

The sentence capped a remarkable seven-day hearing in which scores of Larry Nassar’s victims were able to confront him face to face in a Michigan courtroom.

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said Nassar’s “decision to assault was precise, calculated, manipulative, devious, despicable.”

“It is my honor and privilege to sentence you. You do not deserve to walk outside a prison ever again. You have done nothing to control those urges and anywhere you walk, destruction will occur to those most vulnerable,” Aquilina said.

Yes. What he did was intentional and malicious and repeated hundreds of times. Why would anyone trust any sign of remorse? His ‘apology’ is garbage.

Nassar turned to the courtroom gallery to make a brief statement, saying that the accounts of more than 150 victims had “shaken me to my core.” He said “no words” can describe how sorry he is for his crimes.

“I will carry your words with me for the rest of my days” he said as many of his accusers wept.

This is the same guy who wanted to be excused from listening to the victims’ statements, because they hurt his feelings. The same guy who submitted a letter objecting to the women’s accusations.

“Those patients that are now speaking out are the same ones that praised and came back over and over,” Nassar wrote. “The media convinced them that everything I did was wrong and bad. They feel I broke their trust. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

This is a whole different category of actions from the accident or error that warrants an apology; this was a purposeful action to do harm to children and teenagers for his own slimy gratification. You can’t say “I’m sorry” to that. There’s no point to it. You’re dealing with a damaged human with bad motivations and no social constraints. An apology here is an excuse told by a psychopath to escape punishment and be set free to commit his crimes some more.

There are a whole bunch of greedy psychopaths who deserve justice in this affair. Charles Pierce hits it just right.

Is there anything about the modern Olympic Games that isn’t corrupt? The people who run them make up a claque of international bagmen, shaking down whole countries and bankrupting cities as though the entire world was their goodie bag. There are drugs and bribery, and there was Sochi, which was a monument to both of them. And now there’s this incredible crime spree that took place right under the noses of the Olympic officials. Back in the day, East Germany had its steroid-peddling doctors. The U.S.A. had Larry Nassar. Two-tie, all tie.

NBC should refuse to pay a dime toward its rights fees until everyone involved in this catastrophe is unemployed. If they so choose, American gymnasts should be allowed to compete in 2020 under the Olympic flag or, perhaps, under the flags of the nations from which their parents emigrated. Their country failed them as surely as did the sporting organizations that purport to represent it. No punishment is too harsh for the inhabitants of this universe of ghouls and gargoyles to which these brave young women were condemned. Burn it all down. Salt the earth so it never rises again.

It would be comical to ask this hierarchy of criminal exploiters to apologize for the institutional child slavery and abuse ring they assembled. They knew what they were doing. They wanted to take advantage of these girls and young women, they built the structures that condoned their abuses, they profited heavily from them. No apology is permissable. They must have it all torn away from them, they must be stripped of their rotten gains, they must never be allowed anywhere near athletics ever again.

I’m too cynical to believe any of that will happen, though. Nassar is getting what he deserves, everyone else will walk away with their wallets stuffed.


  1. says

    I’m not down with judges who consider it an honor and privilege to sentence people for life no matter how heinous their crimes. At best you should consider it a light duty.

    But apparently “tough on crime” is the default now because the left in this country surrendered on that as well.

  2. KG says

    It seems doubtful that professional sport can ever be anything but an abomination of greed, chauvinism, cheating, and abuse.

  3. Vivec says

    As loathe as I am to agree with Mike, probably the same thing as Anders Breivik – a-long-but-not-life-sentence that can be renewed or extended if he is not demonstrated to be rehabilited.

    Barring that, I’d at least prefer my judges to not be enthusiastic about handing out life sentences. This is the US justice system, after all.

  4. says

    I found the “honor and privilege” comment slightly odd, but I do understand where it’s coming from.

    But I’m with Vivec, I’m not keen on life sentences either. Society shouldn’t be vindictive, prison shouldn’t be about revenge.

  5. jrkrideau says

    @ 3 PZ Myers
    What do you propose should have been done with a man who molested 150+ girls?

    Send him to prison if you are a bit sadistic.

    Many, if not most, of the inmates there have children or little sisters. They do not like child molesters and many do no have much to lose.

    Imagine living surrounded by a few hundred men with nothing left to lose who hate you so much that they would love to kill or maim you. The slightest slip in security could mean being beaten, stabbed or killed by a fellow inmate (who is lauded by the rest of the institution).

    Fun way to live.

  6. says

    Apologies are for when you do something by accident, like roll over in bed and whap your bedmate in the face with an arm. Or when you put too much half and half in someone’s coffee. It’s a simple way of acknowledging that you a) screwed up b) will try not to do it again.

    I completely agree with you that apologies don’t make any sense at all when you’re talking about some kind of long-term behavior – especially when the person who did it knew it was wrong and consequently tried to conceal it. In that case, the only “I’m sorry” is (implied) “I’m sorry I got caught.”

  7. archangelospumoni says

    I used to live about half a mile from the state pen in Walla Walla and we got to know various employees and a (very) few former inmates out there. The administration has to keep the abusers/child molesters/rapists apart from the rest of the inmates. Otherwise instant “justice.” Various “honest” crooks actually have a code of sorts.

    And regarding the USOC, the only other outfit as filthy is the FIFA guys.

  8. billyjoe says

    I cannot comment specifically about the Larry Nassar case, but an apology in these sort of circumstances can be positive if it is genuine, meaning that its purpose was:

    – not to mitigate the sentence.
    – to acknowledge the hurt caused to the victim.
    – to help ameliorate, even in some limited way, the victim’s suffering.

    Certainly, an apology and recognition of the harm caused by the convicted person would be far preferable to showing complete disregard for the bad effects their actions had on the victim or, as has happened in some instances, actually mocking and taunting the victim in court, which would obviously augment the suffering they already caused.

    In relation to the Larry Nassar case, I wonder how the victims reacted to his statement? If they felt positively towards it, I think that is all that matters. If they felt negative towards it, the statement failed to achieve what should have been its purpose.

  9. says

    What do you propose should have been done with a man who molested 150+ girls?

    Put him somewhere isolated where he can’t do it again but is otherwise comfortable. In cases where the crime is one of social manipulation, he probably ought to be isolated from other potential victims, which would mean library books but no internet or cell phone. I also think that it’s not unreasonable for society to give people who are being effectively banished for life, an option to end their life comfortably, if they request it.

    I don’t think justice should be punitive; that doesn’t do anyone any good. It may be reformative, if the perpetrator sees a way to offer some kind of restitution and understands what they did and has a way of showing they will never do it again. In his case, after a couple victims, “I’ll never do it again” doesn’t hold water because he’s already had ample opportunity to understand the situation and didn’t control himself. So, if there’s no chance for reform, and no point in punishing someone, all you can do is put them in Hotel California and offer them a comfortable way to shorten their stay – but you can never leave.

    American prisons, with the violence level between prisoners, isolation torture, slave labor, and gangs – they’re a symptom of the deep sickness of American culture. If the American people were decent, they would march with pitchforks and torches and sort the prisons out. But, unfortunately, the people outside are not a whole lot better than the people inside, and both are better than the people running the places.

  10. vucodlak says

    I must admit I was troubled by the judge’s words as well.

    There was no “honor” in any part of this (and certainly not in the behavior of institutions). No one with the power to decide another’s fate should call it a “privilege” to end another’s life. Whatever the judge’s private feelings towards the defendant, and regardless of what the defendant has done, salivating over the prospect of sentencing someone to a long and torturous death is not ok for a supposedly impartial judge.

    Don’t get me wrong; I understand the feeling. I have no issue with the victims of Larry Nassar being pleased with his fate. But it isn’t for a judge to take up the mantle of vengeance. Our ‘justice’ system is supposed to be above that sort of thing.

    I don’t have anything else to say that wasn’t said better by Marcus Ranum @ 10.

  11. oliversarmy says

    @mike smith

    You’re a sack of shit. Enjoy reading and supporting the inevitable defense of Larry Nassar from Michael Shermer and Jerry Coyne.

  12. Vivec says

    Nothing Mike said could be construed as “defending ” Larry Nassar.

    It’s possible to consider the judge’s behavior unsettling and the verdict a product of an unjust retributive legal system while still thinking Nassar is a repulsive load of human garbage.

  13. feministhomemaker says

    I have read news accounts of similarly tough but clearly warranted statements from judges before who are sentencing defendants for horrible crimes. Those tough statements have never been treated as irregular or inappropriate and the news accounts reflect an obvious respected for the judges who did it as exercising and expressing the full weight of their conclusion after sitting impartially throughout the trial. Of course there is something quite different about this case. It is a woman judge dressing down a very famous male doctor, publicly, not just in the courtroom but publicly to the whole country and world due to the final willingness by the media to cover this case with the seriousness and intensity it deserved. Now I am sure that made quite a few men uncomfortable and it is much easier to fall back on the idea liberals have abandoned tough critiques of our justice system than to look around and consider how it seems to be mostly, or so far as I can see, only, men who are expressing outrage at this judge’s tone and words. It might be wise to consider the obvious gender gap in that discomfort and outrage and sit quiet a minute and reflect, if such men want to at least appear to be listening and absorbing the full weight and importance of this moment for women and our whole culture.

  14. feministhomemaker says

    In my comment above, “Those tough statements have never been treated as irregular or inappropriate and the news accounts reflected an obvious respect for the judges who did it as exercising and expressing the full weight of their conclusion after sitting impartially throughout the trial.” This is the corrected sentence. Sorry.

  15. oliversarmy says


    Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sat through weeks of testimony about Nassar’s predation on young women athletes. She was subjected to the motions he made about how the victim statements were affecting him emotionally. She had to read the letter letter he wrote to her about the how the testimony of his victims was nothing but the fury from scorned women. She listened to 156 women talk about the impact Nassar had on their lives. And you and the rest of these sacks of shit come in here and tsk tsk about the language she used during the sentencing hearing? About how unseemly it was, and simply posing as some sort of tough on crime stance?

    Go fuck yourself.

  16. Vivec says

    Uh, cool, but the people you’re speaking to – Mike, Markus, and I – have consistently opposed such rhetoric and criticized the criminal justice system, so I’m not sure the relevance.

    I can’t speak to Mike or Marcus’ gender, but I’m also very much not a dude.

  17. Vivec says

    The judge is an elected official with a code of decorum that routinely decides the fate of people’s lives and belongs to a system that unjustly murders thousands of innocent people.

    Fuck you for minimizing that, troll.

  18. Ed Seedhouse says

    I think present society is pretty confused about how to deal with convicted criminals. I think it odd, for instance, that someone with a less than life sentence is put in what is basically a hell hole, and then expected not to try to escape.
    I mean, if we don’t want them to try escaping why not keep them in reasonably comfortable circumstances?

    On the other hand, I have no problem with life sentences, or indefinite sentences. I think it is moral and proper to put dangerous people (whom we justly fear) where they cannot do more harm. And I think it is fine to keep them there as long as they remain dangerous. But we should be straight with them and admit that the reason we are putting them away is that we are afraid of them. And give them the escape clause that if they can demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt (and I would be very skeptical about this) we will let them out.

  19. oliversarmy says

    Decorum is paramount. On Vulcan. And on Jerry Coyne’s blog.

    Thank you for maximizing that, you vile sack of shit.

  20. feministhomemaker says

    Yeah, as with lots of other gender unfairness, we women have absorbed a good share of male privileging too, so I am not surprised if it is same for all genders. Male is privileged. By us all.

    The point is, one can’t just break out the non genderized anti liberal talking points here without looking pretty foolish for not identifying the dynamic happening in this case around gender. It is monumental and historic.

  21. Helen Huntingdon says

    Wow, what is with the sociopaths who think this guy should be cared for and kept comfortable by the state for the rest of his life, a level of care and support not given to his victims and not available to vast number of people in this country?

    I think that while he’s locked up for life he can have leftovers. After everyone else in the country has all the good nutrition and clean water and education and health care they could possibly need, he can have some of the leftovers if there are any.

  22. Tethys says

    What do you propose should have been done with a man who molested 150+ girls?

    Oh, so many ideas. Dropped on the arctic ice sheet to feed polar bears. Shark chum. Nice old fashioned firing squad?

  23. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    an apology and recognition of the harm caused by the convicted person would be far preferable to showing complete disregard for the bad effects their actions had on the victim

    Too late.

    What do you propose should have been done with a man who molested 150+ girls?

    Put him somewhere isolated where he can’t do it again but is otherwise comfortable.

    If you treat people the same whether they do the right thing or the wrong thing, that gives them very little reason not to just do whichever of those comes more easily to them.

    Why do I seem to be the only human who’s able to figure this out?

  24. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    I can’t speak to Mike or Marcus’ gender, but I’m also very much not a dude.

    But you caucus with them.

  25. oliversarmy says


    Also Spock, while we are on the subject of decorum perhaps you would like to publicly admonish gymnast Mattie Larson for using the word “fucking” in her statement in court.

    “I can’t even put into words how much I fucking hate you,” Larson told Nassar.

    Tsk tsk. The nerve of the girl! Why didn’t Judge Aquilina hold her in contempt?

  26. thirdmill says

    Helen, No. 28: People who have not molested 150 women have to work for a living, so I think he should as well. Certainly not as a physician, but there is plenty of trash to be picked up on the highways, government buildings that need janitors, government vehicles that need to be detailed. Prisons used to have farms where inmates grew their own food, with any food left over donated to charity. If, after he earns his keep, working a 50 or 60 hour week, and there’s money left over, it could go into a victim compensation fund

  27. Tethys says

    olivers army, if you think Vivec is tsking about the judges language you are very mistaken. Their point was that wishing rape on a rapist is the opposite of justice.

  28. says

    Helen Huntingdon@#28:
    Wow, what is with the sociopaths who think this guy should be cared for and kept comfortable by the state for the rest of his life, a level of care and support not given to his victims and not available to vast number of people in this country?

    What benefit is there to torturing someone in his situation? If he’s someplace where he can no longer commit his crimes, and he’s not able to do it any more, where is the value to society to make him miserable?

    If society collectively tortures a now-helpless prisoner, then society is being just as malicious – it’s a different crime but it’s still a crime. Interestingly, his crime was abusing his authority over those who he was placed over in a position of trust – exactly the same crime as society commits when it brings its full weight down upon an individual, if it intends to torment them through harsh imprisonment.

    I remember when, every so often, some lawmaker would start to squawk about how comfortable prisoners are. One, back in the early 90s, was complaining that prisoners could watch color TV! The horror! Until someone explained that black and white TVs are really hard to find, anymore… But the point is: it doesn’t save money to make their cell dank and miserable. It just makes them miserable. Putting someone in a place where they can’t leave, for life, is already taking away from them more or less everything that matters, so why not give them a room that’s about as comfortable as a Holiday Inn (except, if their crime is one where they’d be able to hurt people remotely, as in this case – one without internet access and no phone) In this case, sure, it would be stupid to give him a way that he could try to groom other young women into abuse; that’s clearly a danger – he has a lot of practice at that.

    You’re not using the word “sociopath” correctly, btw. A “sociopath” is someone who doesn’t understand social mores and behaviors and acts based on their inner impulses with no consideration of what society would want. I’m the one here who is expressing concern for society’s collective responsibilities and decisions – not you. A society that tortures its helpless prisoners is not a just society, it’s a society that tortures the weak. It’s not possible for a society to be sociopathic, but I’d say such a society has something seriously wrong with it.

    As far as your other point – that society doesn’t take adequate care of many of its needy members: yeah, that’s another way that America sucks. That ought to be fixed, too. But just because we are really horrible about X and moderately horrible about Y, doesn’t excuse any of the horribleness at all.

    Two wrongs don’t actually make a right. Surprise, mom was correct about that! It feels weird that, as a moral nihilist, I have to explain something so obvious to someone who’s apparently capable of using a keyboard to compose sentences.

  29. vucodlak says

    It’s always fun for people who’ve been tortured to encounter a crowd of people cheering for it, and telling survivors to “go fuck yourself” if they object.

    Yeah, if I’d been given the chance I’d probably have tortured the people who tortured me and my friend. And I’d have killed them when I was done. I will be always be grateful to our mentor for taking the possibility of revenge from us. Because no matter what they did to us, it doesn’t suddenly become right or ok to torture them in return.

    I don’t trust myself to say anything more right now, and I suspect this comment might have already crossed the line. I’m going to walk away for a bit.

  30. oliversarmy says

    What the hell are you talking about? Please provide the specific language where the judge wished rape on Larry Nassar. Or the comment in which the pointy eared one suggested that is what they are objecting to.

    Can you even read?

  31. says

    Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y@#30:
    If you treat people the same whether they do the right thing or the wrong thing, that gives them very little reason not to just do whichever of those comes more easily to them.

    Sequestering someone for the rest of their life and removing most of their ability to act, and removing them from society is “treating people the same”? Same as what?

    Let’s try it a different way: since the threat of punishment/torture/incarceration/whatever clearly did not deter him, what are you going to do, threaten him more? That’s not going to work. And clearly the other child abusers who are currently imprisoned didn’t deter him either. In fact the child abusers who have suffered cruel fates in prison, and who are living in miserable conditions or solitary confinement – did their experience deter him at all?

    Surely you can’t argue that making an example out of him is going to somehow work, this time, on some other about-to-be-abuser, because if it did, there would be no abusers by now – plenty of examples being made.

    And I don’t see how you can argue that making him miserable is going to somehow undo the wrong that he did, or make his victims feel better. Perhaps it’ll satisfy your cruelty, if that’s how you roll, but I don’t think you should be able to insist that society torture someone to satisfy your sense of futile vengeance.

    Why do I seem to be the only human who’s able to figure this out?

    Because you actually haven’t figured it out?

  32. thirdmill says

    While I agree with every word the judge said, speaking as a former trial attorney, I have some concerns her comments could be the basis for an appeal (assuming Nassar is stupid enough to appeal; if I were his attorney I would certainly advise him to leave bad enough alone.) Judges aren’t supposed to be advocates, they are supposed to be neutral. If the Court of Appeals decides the judge crossed that line, they could vacate the sentence and send it back for another sentencing hearing in front of another judge, in which case — joy of all joys — we get to watch this all over again.

  33. says

    Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y@#30:
    I will remind you that, in my comment at #10 I recommended isolation for life, with an option for the choice of a painless death. That is hardly “treating people the same” – it’s FUCKING KILLING THEM.

  34. Vivec says

    I’m not a liberal (nor am I a woman, for the record), and the US criminal justice system is morally reprehensible.

    I don’t know, ask the multiple nations that have such a system in place.

    Because I think they’re correct, yes.

    The victims are not elected officials with power to end people’s lives at will and very eagerly do so to thousands of innocent people. I have literally no problem with the victim saying expletives.

    American prisons are minimally-maintained hellholes where prisoner on prisoner violence is a feature, not a bug.

    Cheering on someone being sent to a rape and murder mill under a nicer name is a bad look, no matter how bad the person is, especially when you’re a member of a system that intentionally kills innocents.

  35. Tethys says


    Can you even read?

    wow, straight to asshole. Yes clearly I can read, and write, and have read multiple stories besides this brief summary about the Nassar sentencing. The judge didn’t exactly use the phrase ‘I hope you get raped to death in prison.’ but if you track down the entire sentencing transcript the sentiment is very clearly implied between the lines.

    In any case, still wondering why you have a bug up your ass over Vivec.

  36. Ed Seedhouse says

    @28: The fact that you call people who disagree with you “sociopaths” instead of engaging the points they make suggests that you are not arguing honestly. And that suggests you are not thinking rationally.

    Morally, I am of the opinion that we “owe” (less emotionally, we should provide) prisoners of the state decent accommodation because we have taken away their freedom.

    Practically, why do you want to give them an incentive to escape and commit outrages on others?

    Who then is the sociopath?

  37. whheydt says

    He could, at least, partially “apologize” but insisting that his lawyer NOT appeal his sentence.

  38. Kreator says

    I agree with feministhomemaker’s article @24, it’s disappointing to see so many people supporting patriarchy over here, if not entirely unsurprising.

  39. Helen Huntingdon says

    @35 Wow, you out yourself further as a sociopath with everything you say.

    It’s really simple on a case as egregious as this one: If you’re not a sociopath, making things as right as possible for the victims and getting them all helpful resources to rebuild their lives comes before ANYTHING for the perpetrator other than locking him up and throwing away the key. It’s that simple. If you were actually human, you wouldn’t be talking about wanting to make him comfortable, because the victims don’t have everything they need yet.

    But of course, given what you are, you’re all about coddling the person in the story who is like yourself.

  40. billyjoe says


    I don’t understand your comment “too late”, except that perhaps you misread my comment. I said it would be far preferable for the convicted person to apologise and recognise the harm he caused by the victim than to show complete disregard for the bad effects their actions had on the victim, or to mock and taunt the victim in court.

  41. Vivec says

    Expressing mild distaste for a judge’s choice of words is hardly being just like one of, if not the most prolific child molestors in history.

    Insofar as I support not sending people to places where they will get raped and tortured, yeah, that is kind of a big deal to me. Rape and torture are bad, no matter who the victim is.

  42. billyjoe says

    As for the sentence and the judge’s comment, I think the argument against the judge’s comment, and for not punishing the convicted person beyond merely isolating him from society so that he can not harm again, doesn’t sufficiently take the victims into account. They need to feel that justice was done, and the harm they experience is sufficiently recognised. The judge’s comment is part of that, as is the way the convicted person is treated in prison. Of course, there needs to be a compromise between all out revenge (if that is actually what the victims want), and providing congenial living conditions for the convicted person not much different from those of the victims. There doesn’t need to be any inhumanity in coming to this compromise. Again, it would be interesting to get a reaction from the victims.

  43. says

    I agree that American prisons have become nightmarish parodies of justice — I would not advocate that he should be imprisoned with the malicious intent of seeing him raped or murdered. We should clean up our penal system. (no more of these for-profit prisons, as a start).

    If the judge had made those remarks before guilt had been determined, I agree that that would be bad, and grounds for appeal. She did not. She said that after guilt had been determined, after Nassar had confessed. So what she did was…judge him. I think that’s her job.

  44. says

    Helen Huntingdon@#48:
    I was only talking about what to do with the perpetrator because the question we are discussing here is whether there is any value in the perpetrators’ apology. I haven’t said anything about the victims one way or another; you have no basis to infer what I think should or shouldn’t be done for the victims – that’s as irrelevant as your earlier red herring about that society doesn’t take care of its other needy members. Before you go around calling people “sociopath” so lightly, maybe you should think a little bit about what they’re saying and stop reacting to your incorrect assumptions about what they may or may not think.

    If it helps you, elsewhere, I’ve spent some effort trying to design justice systems (it’s hard!) including the whole question of restitutional justice versus punitive justice or deterrent justice. I don’t expect you to have read it, but I do find it amusing that you’re trying to take me to task by skydiving to conclusions and accusing me of sociopathy based on your mistakes. [stderr]

    Since we’re on the topic of “what to do for the victims” – there’s a problem here. The perpetrator really has no useful restitution that can be offered (as whheydt@#45 points out, there are some gestures that he could make but we don’t know if that’ll help the victims, much) so let’s take restitution out of consideration as a practical option. There’s retribution, which is a barbaric option, and that doesn’t do anything for the victims, either. That’s why I haven’t been focusing on those. So what can society do for the victims? Pretty much: exactly what it’s doing! Now that the victims have come forward, the case has been put to trial, the perpetrator is getting locked up, then US society is going to give the victims the opportunity that it gives victims in a serious crime – pretty much: sue for damages and maybe get some financial restitution and maybe some satisfaction from that – but, what else do you expect? What else is there? What is your recommendation?

    I think it’d be nice if the US gymnastics team’s management all wind up being kicked out, if there is any indication that they knew what was going on and hid it (just like in the Sandusky case) but even if they knew nothing, they are going to suffer huge financial costs; they already have – AT&T and several sponsors have pulled sponsorship. (The cynic in me wonders if AT&T did that because they don’t want their money going to help pay off the massive lawsuits that are coming down the pike) But – to your question – how does any of this help the victims?

    Probably the best thing that justice systems can do for any victims is to quickly and effectively stop there from being more victims. Did I need to say something that obvious, in order to satisfy you?

    I don’t think you should accuse me of not thinking about the victims, when I have – I just don’t have a good answer. Do you?

  45. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    I said it would be far preferable for the convicted person to apologise and recognise the harm he caused by the victim than to show complete disregard for the bad effects their actions had on the victim,


  46. Vivec says

    Reread billyjoe’s post @9.

    They are explicitly talking in general, not referring specifically to Nassar.

  47. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    Expressing mild distaste for a judge’s choice of words is hardly being just like one of, if not the most prolific child molestors in history.

    Thinking the judge’s words are the most important thing to be talking about at this point in time, on the other hand…

  48. Marissa van Eck says

    Here’s an idea: cut his fucking balls and dick off. Under anesthetic of course, and make sure he’s properly sewn up and all. But the rule is “you hurt people with these things, you lose them.” Then have him, as was suggested upthread, work at something like a prison farm, with anything he managed to make over subsistence level going to a charity fund to help treat the victims.

    He will need to be kept in ad-seg of course, lest the gen pop prisoners rape him violently to death.

  49. unclefrogy says

    at the risk of setting of some I will say that “the doctor” is a very sick guy.
    I do not see the verdict in any way a victory at all.
    It is a profound sadness and is just one symptom, one indicator of how sick we really are.
    we failed the girls who were the victims of his obsession and compulsion. how is it that they could not come forward and complain? How is it that no one could believe them, how was it that none of the organizations that were supposed to oversee his work did so?
    how is it that he was not treated? Why did he not seek treatment?
    How did he come by his obsession? what kind of abuse was he subjected to to lead him down that road?
    It is a long list of failures.
    after all of that all we can do is convict him and in-prison him for the rest of his life.
    It is a sad miserable story one of many.
    uncle frogy

  50. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    Reread billyjoe’s post @9.

    They are explicitly talking in general, not referring specifically to Nassar.

    Vivec, deliberate trolling is against the rules here.

    I read the post just fine.


    Expressing remorse like billyjoe talks about at the time, upon thinking the act through hours later, and trying to make some sort of restitution, might count for something. Expressing it now, after being caught, tried, found guilty, and sentenced, carries literally no weight at all.

    Read my post, ffs.

  51. Vivec says

    I suppose you asked every survivor of sexual assault – myself included – how we would feel if our abuser apologized while in Nasser’s situation?

    (I know you didn’t, because I would feel a lot better if my abuser ever apologized, even if they ended up getting convicted. You don’t speak for me. Kthx. )

    That aside, Billyjoe said that a show of general contrition would be preferable to “mocking and taunting the victim in court”, which I think is pretty plainly obvious.

  52. says

    To PZ’s comment@#52:
    The US justice system can’t decide if it’s attempting to reform criminals, punish them, or deter others. So it seems to try to do a bit of all of the above, which doesn’t work because those objectives compete with eachother. For example, you cannot psychologically torture a prisoner in solitary confinement and expect that to somehow turn them into a better human being. Nor, can you expect their solitary confinement torture to serve as deterrent to others. Deterrent hasn’t worked in recorded history – it didn’t even work for Vlad Tepescz, who had a reputation for extremely draconian punishment for even small infractions. The other option that the US justice system embeds by default is getting perpetrators out of contact with society so they cannot re-offend. That actually makes sense for crimes that are heinous and where the cost is high, in terms of new victims, if the perpetrator is “given another chance” and released. Where the US justice system gets that wrong, as usual, is by mandating permanent sequestration for non-violent crimes, through things like “3 strikes” laws.

    With heinous crimes that will have a huge cost to society if a perpetrator is “given another chance” society is thinking of the victims by trying to prevent there being more of them. Sequestering the perpetrator is the best way to do that. If society is a bunch of barbarians, they kill the perpetrator or drop them in a horrible oubliette. If society is trying to be relatively civilized, they’re sequestered permanently but not miserably. That’s basically what Norway has done with Anders Brievik: recognize that he’s a dangerous, irredemable, garbage-human that isn’t going to ever walk the street again. Once you’ve made that decision, it’s enough.

    Unfortunately, doing much more than that is open to abuse. What if we said “let’s render the perpetrator down into component organs and sell them for transplants, then give the money to the victims?” Lots of problems with that: 1) the victims might not want that 2) it’s open for abuse 3) it makes society guilty of murdering its citizens for money

    This stuff’s complicated and I don’t pretend to have anything close to a good answer (because I think it’s a problem that doesn’t have good answers, only less-bad answers) however I can say that, from every angle you look at it, the US justice system manages to do almost exactly the wrong thing. That’s because it doesn’t know what the right thing is, because the US never decided what its justice system is trying to do.

  53. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    I suppose you asked every survivor of sexual assault – myself included – how we would feel if our abuser apologized while in Nasser’s situation?

    (I know you didn’t, because I would feel a lot better if my abuser ever apologized, even if they ended up getting convicted. You don’t speak for me. Kthx. )

    I’m not talking about anyone’s feelings, cupcake, I’m talking moral facts.

    That aside, Billyjoe said that a show of general contrition would be preferable to “mocking and taunting the victim in court”, which I think is pretty plainly obvious.

    And trivial. So why label it as “not doing” something the perpetrator already did and can’t undo? See #63.

  54. Ed Seedhouse says

    @48: I think that stands for itself. You want to inflict pain and torture on people who inflicted pain and torture.

    We live in different worlds, obviously. We all suffer pain in this life, some far more than I have had to put up with. Some rise above far more pain than I have ever suffered. Some do not. I know nothing about you and you know nothing about me.

    In a week I shall undergo open heart surgery, and I am lucky to live in a country that pays the bill for me and lucky as well to live in a place with unusual expertise for that available to someone like me who would just die in the USA. But there is a non zero chance that I won’t be around to post here in a short time. I am not complaining, merely observing.

    I don’t wish to inflict pain and suffering on anyone, and that includes those who inflict it on others. Put them away for life, if necessary, but do not torture them. And for that I am a sociopath?

  55. Vivec says

    I disagree about it from a moral standpoint as well. I think genuine contrition would be morally better than mocking and taunting the victim as well.

  56. gijoel says

    @Mike Smith, Vivec and others, nope, nope, nopitty-nope. He should of gone to jail decades ago. He’ll wind up in a protected prisoners wing with the other pedophiles and bad cops. Which is where he belongs for the rest of his life.

    Also I imagine that if I had spent the last seven days listening to his victims giving statements about his abuse of them, then yeah I’d feel privileged to lock him away too.

  57. microraptor says

    Marissa van Eck @58: How about we treat deliberate torture and mutilation as a heinous act, no matter who it’s done to?

  58. Vivec says

    When did I ever express disappointment with the concept of him going to jail? I think US prisons are demonstrably terrible, but that doesn’t mean that I think he should walk free.

  59. says

    I am quite happy with his sentence and know that he will definitely know at least once or twice how those poor young girls felt when he is ambushed in prison. He can only be protected for so long. They will get him and I hope the young ladies get to hear about it. I have no sympathy for molesters.

  60. Vivec says

    Yeah, uh, you’re not an ally to rape survivors if you think rape is acceptable as a punishment. I’m also bowing out here, because holy shit is that triggering.

  61. whheydt says

    On the general topic of what constitutes “inhumane”, I would submit that it can depend greatly upon context. I would point to Gama’s complaint in Gilbert & Sullivan’s _Princess Ida_ as an example.

    Is living is a solitary cell inhumane? Isn’t that what certain religious people do voluntarily?

    Personally, I read the judge’s remark about “sentencing him to death” as, ‘you are going be in prison for the rest of your life’ aka ‘death by old age’. Bear in mind that even at the minimum sentence he agreed to (the low end of 25 to 40 years), that is *after* the 60 year sentence from the Feds on the child porn charges…and under at least current policy, he will have serve at least 85% of that, or 51 years. So even if the state were to keep him for 12 years (half of 25), he’d be locked up for *at* *least* 63 years. He is 54 now so he’d be at least 117 if he got out. That looks like a life sentence (i.e. sentenced to death) to me.

  62. says

    Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y@#63:
    Well, then “comfortable” isn’t the word you want, is it?

    Read for comprehension, please. I was talking about a “comfortable death” as opposed to, say, the kind that victims of death sentences in the US justice system get.

    Note further, I’d suggest that as the prisoner’s option, not inflicted by the state. A prisoner who’s looking at spending the rest of their life in what amounts to a mid-tier hotel room might want to ask for a pill, take it, and die a comfortable death. As opposed to being strapped down involuntarily and shot full of drugs that appear to be calibrated to give them the experience of being tranquilized, semi-conscious, paralyzed, and then have a heart attack. That’s uncomfortable.

    You appear to be particularly concerned with my being correct about something regarding my opinion about whether prisoners might be offered an option to shorten a life-sentence (either way, it’s still a life sentence) I think you just didn’t understand what I said.

  63. says

    Personally, I read the judge’s remark about “sentencing him to death” as, ‘you are going be in prison for the rest of your life’ aka ‘death by old age’.

    That’s how I read it, too.

    By the way, there are plenty of prisoners who suicide. Bureau of justice statistics says there were ~4,000 deaths in prison in 2014, 7% of which were suicides. It seems to me a form of ruthless mercy to offer a prisoner who’s going to spend life behind bars an option to choose to shorten their life – simply being imprisoned for life (without torture) might be sufficiently terrifying to some prisoners that they’d rather die comfortably <— There, Azykroth, I used that word again! rather than having to slit their wrists or try to hang themselves or whatever.

    My attitude on that topic is strongly influenced by my general belief that people ought to be free to have a comfortable <—– There, Azykroth! death any time they choose it, whether because they are facing a terminal disease or if they are just so sick of some of the comments on Pharyngula that they decide they'd rather die. (I'd recommend they just take a break…) Obviously, there would need to be some controls in place (waiting periods, etc) whether it was a prisoner who was shortening a life-sentence or someone who was just tired of it all.

    Some prisoners who were being warehoused for life might enjoy it, it's true. But the question there becomes, as I mentioned before: is society's objective to make the prisoner suffer, or is society's objective to protect itself from the prisoner? If society is trying to protect itself, then the prisoner may as well have access to books and whatever they can do to fill their time safely. If society is trying to make them suffer, it would be barbarous to leave them in a cell with nothing but Sam Harris, Richard Carrier, and Michael Shermer books on morality to contemplate. I think I have sufficiently hammered on the point that society doesn't gain any benefit from making the prisoner suffer, other than allowing some of its barbarous members to vent their anger on someone. Some of the commenters in this thread would perhaps be happy to see the role of official torturer brought back into prisons. Yuck.

  64. paxoll says

    I can only think of two reasons our system can be called barbaric. The first is obviously innocent people being found guilty. Which is why it is so important to root corruption, racism, and sexism out of our criminal justice system. “All presumptive evidence of felony should be admitted cautiously; for the law holds it better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent party suffer”-Blackstone. The second is punishment exceeding the crime. Our sentencing outlines are excessive, while the conditions of our prisons is not conducive to fair punishment. This is also intrinsically tied to corruption, racism, and sexism. All these problems are tied to faults in society, not the actual legal system itself. A teen with a 10 year sentence for a non-violent drug possession is a grave injustice, but so is a rapist getting 2 years with probation after 6 months. Nassar absolutely deserves the punishment that was handed to him, implied prison violence and all. That is not barbaric, that is not being as bad as he is. The harm he committed to those girls makes it so our society has absolutely no moral obligation to him at all. There is no recompense he can provide. He is not deserving of a comfortable separation from society with society footing the bill.

    @Marcus, punitive justice does work as a deterrent, or do you honestly believe the majority of people drive the speed limit because they think it is the only “safe” speed? No, the deterrent is based on 2 things, the perceived benefit vs punishment, and the likelihood of being caught. The majority of crimes are not caught causing criminals to feel like they will not be caught, just like driving over the speed limit. Which is why Nassar, did what he did. He thought he wouldn’t be caught because of his position and profession. Nothing will ever completely deter criminals, but punitive justice often deters a lot of criminals that are not complete sociopaths. This is why most rapists aren’t also murderers.

  65. says

    @Professor Myers

    Vivec and Marcus largely said what I was going to say. I would ask you go back and re-read what I said. I in no way disputed the sentence. I disputed how the sentence was given. By all means Nassar should be isolated to prevent future harms.

    I don’t have a qualm with life sentences in theory-there very well might be hard cases that would perpetually harm others and need to be isolated forever. (The conditions in US prisons are human rights violations and no one should be subjected to them)

    My problem lies, and it’s not a word choice or politeness thing, is the judge seemed to take, for lack of a better term, delight in handing down, in her own words, a death sentence. In any case the statement is clearly rooted in an punishment understanding of justice. I don’t believe punishment is a legitimate basis for criminal justice by the state. I don’t know how far you care to take this but I think it’s pretty much a dictate of reason that judicial penalty must be forward looking.

    As such preventing future crimes via isolation, deterrence, or rehabilitation is the only proper orientation of criminal justice systems. I found the judge’s statement because it relished the power to punishment. I hoped it’s for show-being tough on crime because it’s worse if it’s not.

    I think it’s all the more important to speak up in these cases because it’s so natural to feel the desire to punish in them.

    A judge’s job is judge people according to the law, not by more comprehensive doctrines. It’s simply not proper for a judge to celebrate a depriving a person of their liberty, no matter how legitimate that deprivation is.

    This desire to punish is a huge problem with this country all accross the spectrum. To use another example that disturbs me: the judge in the Brock Turner case is facing recall. While yes Turner’s sentence was far too light, abet legally allowed, the judge’s error seems to be because he routinely followed the parole department’s recommendation because he prided himself on being progressive. (He also seemed to recognize his error in the Turner case as he transferred to civil cases under his own intiative) it was a bad call, an unjust one. He shouldn’t face public costing him his job over it for multiple reasons; like judicial independent or we know judges hand out tougher sentences around elections. I can only imagine the chilling effect a successful recall would have.

    But the mob requires its pound of flesh so who cares if it further exebrates the fundamental brokenness of the American judicial system.

  66. says


    Nassar is guilty. He’s also a moral monster. He deserves whatever treatment is proper for criminals in full measure. Proper treatment doesn’t include a thinly veiled desire to see him beaten or killed.

    I would be uncomfortable with a judge saying what an honor and privilege it was to sentence the murderer of a queer person.

  67. thirdmill says

    Paxoll, No. 75, punitive justice does not work as a deterrent because nobody ever thinks they’re going to get caught. Nassar certainly didn’t. Using your own example of speed laws, hardly anybody drives the speed limit.

  68. billyjoe says


    vivec is correct, you simply misunderstood what I wrote. Instead of doubling down, maybe slow down, read carefully, and understand what is written before commenting, because it seems I’m not the only one you’ve misunderstood.

  69. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y @ 64

    I’m not talking about anyone’s feelings, cupcake, I’m talking moral facts.

    And I think you may have just put your fingers on the issue that makes this such a contentious and uncomfortable issue.

    I am a survivor. Well, sort of. So far. I remember, with frightening clarity, most of what was done to me and what I did as a child. My predator set himself up to look like a pillar of the community so that he could use a Cub Scout pack as his own personal harem. I don’t know if evil actually exists, but he is closer to it than anyone else I have ever met.

    Were it up to me, I would want him dead. I would want him to die slowly and painfully. I would want retribution. It wouldn’t change how I feel and how I view myself, but it might make me feel better for a moment.

    Which is why we have a legal system. Which is why we have, in place, a set of laws and procedures that are supposed to remove feelings, remove emotions, from the entire process. The emotions are still there, but the system, epitomized by the judge, is supposed to be impartial, weighing the evidence, allowing or disallowing certain evidence or testimony or questions. Which is why I feel (yeah, there’s that word again) uncomfortable with a judge sounding possitively gleaful at the sentencing of this predator.

    As for an apology, it would help me. A tiny bit. If he is still alive. Maybe. It is possible, though, that his statement may be part of a realization (far too late, of course) that these girls and women are people, not things. That the cub scouts were actual people, not toys.

    More likely, though, it was cynical attempt to ameliorate the sentence.

    margecullen @70:

    I am quite happy with his sentence and know that he will definitely know at least once or twice how those poor young girls felt when he is ambushed in prison.

    You view rape as a punishment. What was I being punished for? Who decided that I deserved that punishment? What did I do to deserve to be raped?

    I am a survivor. And I would not wish rape on anyone. For any reason.

    Vivec has it right:

    you’re not an ally to rape survivors if you think rape is acceptable as a punishment

    Be safe, Vivec.

  70. Matrim says

    @paxoll, 75

    punitive justice does work as a deterrent, or do you honestly believe the majority of people drive the speed limit because they think it is the only “safe” speed?

    I don’t believe that, mostly because I don’t believe most people drive the speed limit. Deterrent only works if the person in question thinks they can’t get away with that. The fact that crime still existed in societies where the punishments are wildly excessive kinda puts paid to the idea of deterrence.

  71. tiredtexan says

    I think the gist of the controversy here arises because in the US, male judges routinely (and I mean in 80% plus of cases) castigate and contemptuously lecture convicted criminals regarding their crimes. As a lawyer, I’ve seen this frequently, even when I believe the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, and often with non-violent offenders. This is routine. However, here is a case where women were the victims, where the judge was a woman and allowed over 150 women to give victim statements, and then powerfully and stridently spoke for them to a male criminal, suddenly all these men, for the first time ever in my long 30-year career as a lawyer, complain that this is somehow inappropriate.

    It feels disingenuous, fake, a trumped up reason to put another women in her place for doing exactly the same thing men have been doing for hundreds of years without comment or concern. It places the male perpetrator’s needs above that of the women he victimized, their need to be heard, to be validated, to be believed. And the judge’s comments did that for the victims, and for the first time after years of being ignored, being called liars, being swept under the rug for the profit of the US Olympics teams, these women heard someone in power stand up for them, believe them and do something. This is likely to jump start their healing.

    But instead of focusing on that, the men criticize the woman judge, who is doing what male judges do at sentencing, EVERY SINGLE DAY.

    And that is what is maddening. It’s tone trolling, done only to women, and it serves, whether intentionally or not, to diminish the fact that somebody, this once, listened to women about their sexual assaults and did something about it.

    But we can’t have that, can we?

  72. Vivec says

    Literally everyone criticizing the judge in this thread has been criticizing the US legal system for years. You can literally go on Marcus’ blog in the sidebar and see the dozens of posts on the matter for yourself.

    Fuck off with this disingenuous assertion that everyone with even the slightest issue about the judge’s words must have some sexist reason behind it. I’m not going to stop criticizing powerful officials in a corrupt barbaric system just because said official is a woman.

    She could validate and support the victims without going “lol you’re gonna die in prison and i wish i could sentence you to get raped xD”

  73. tiredtexan says

    I have read this blog for years, and have heard criticisms regarding the US Justice system raised here frequently, and do not deny that these criticisms are justified, and usually agree with most of them. However, that is not my point. What I’ve never heard, after years in the legal business, after years reading and watching news media, after years reading this blog and others, are criticisms being leveled at judges for castigating defendants during sentencing. Not on this blog, not in the media, and not as a lawyer. It’s just a non-issue, from what I’ve seen.
    My point is a different issue altogether. I agree that the justice and prison systems are horrific, and that they both need to be reformed. I just find it disingenuous that the only time I’ve ever heard anyone criticize a judge for being too harsh during sentencing occurred on this case.
    It’s disingenuous in my opinion, and the timing is very suspect, because the criticism serves to deligitimize (again – whether intentional or not), the fact that women were heard and believed with respect to their sexual assaults, and the justice system actually worked for them, after great delay, minimizing, etc., rather than excusing their rapist’s conduct and defending light sentencing. Where is the outrage when a male judge throws the book at a murderer, drug dealer, or thief? Crickets……….. Why now, of all times, is there such hand-wringing over a judge’s comments during sentencing?
    This criticism of the judge’s comments in this comment reek of unconscious prejudice against a powerful woman actually listening to and believing women victims, and doing something about it. I suspect that many of the male pundits so offended by the judge’s comments have never noticed, much less commented on male judges doing the same thing. It’s tone trolling at its worst, and serves as a pretext for the underlying, softer, misogyny that finds a home in finding something to justify criticizing women doing what men do EVERY SINGLE DAY.
    And, it has nothing to do with whether or not the prison system needs overhaul. It has to do with silencing women, consciously or unconsciously with this new standard never applied to men.
    Any why the cursing and calling me names? I am making a good faith argument, not denigrating you or anyone else.

  74. paxoll says


    The fact that crime still existed in societies where the punishments are wildly excessive kinda puts paid to the idea of deterrence.

    is a ridiculous fallacy, which I addressed

    Nothing will ever completely deter criminals, but punitive justice often deters a lot of criminals that are not complete sociopaths. This is why most rapists aren’t also murderers.

    @thirdmill You seemed to have missed the whole point of the example and are being very dishonest if you think no one drives the speed limit. People will drive over the speed limit is proportion to the traffic around them BECAUSE they know they are not likely to get pulled over. Maybe you need a little more experience on the road. I have seen large swaths of cars on small highways switch from 30 over the limit, to going exactly the speed limit when they approach an area that is a “known” speed trap. What is the penalty for a speeding ticket? a fine. If you go fast enough, that fine gets pretty damn expensive to the point it can be an arrest-able offense. Notice not a lot of people do that? Because 1, their chance of getting caught goes up, and 2. the penalty is prohibited.

  75. Ed Seedhouse says

    @84:”I just find it disingenuous that the only time I’ve ever heard anyone criticize a judge for being too harsh during sentencing occurred on this case.”

    I just find that apparently you haven’t been listening…

  76. paxoll says

    @Tiredtexan, I would guess that the lack of previous criticism is due to the warrant and egregiousness of the topic. If a patient goes to the doctor with a broken leg, do you think the doctor is going to mention the zit on the patients forehead? Generally the topic focuses on the worst problem, mandatory sentences, privatized prisons, racist cops, ect. The fact that this is the topic of conversation means that it is pretty much the only valid criticism that can be made in this case. This scumbag is going to get what he deserves and I don’t think any flaws that have crept into our legal system is going to let him off.

  77. tiredtexan says

    I am making a distinction between the lectures given during sentencing, and the actual sentences given. There have been frequent discussions on this blog and elsewhere that the length of sentences often do not fit the crime, that innocent people are convicted, that judges excuse rape and give light sentences, that mandatory sentencing for non-violent crimes is cruel, that racism is rampant in sentencing, and that prison conditions are horrific. I agree with all of those arguments.
    What there has not been, to my knowledge, is criticism of a judge’s lecture to the defendant during sentencing, something that happens literally every day, and is part and parcel of the sentencing process. Judges admonish defendant for their crimes, on their bad decisions, and often harangue a defendant in a raised voice. It’s a ritual designed to help victims and reinforce the justice system’s import. It’s part of judging.
    In contrast, in this case, I haven’t heard anyone criticize the judge for the length of Nassar’s sentence, only for what she said when she sentenced him. The only time I’ve seen comments regarding what a judge says during sentencing is when judges use sentencing to excuse sexual assault, not excoriate it. Here, when a judge did the opposite, lots of hand wringing. Further, I’ve read multiple stories over the years where judges, both male and female, give long speeches to defendants during sentencing in murder cases. I’ve personally heard judges do the same in non-violent sentencing hearings. But, before yesterday, I’d never heard (to my recollection) a single piece of criticism for the routine comments of the type this judge made.
    Again, this seems like a new standard applied for first time because a woman judge lectured a male defendant regarding sexual assault in a harsh way. If I am wrong, and there have been articles or blog entries making this an issue, please cite to the article or blog entry where this occurred.
    I could be wrong, and have been before. But I see this as just one more example of multiple male pundits trying to find a way to shut up a powerful woman when they wouldn’t have uttered a word had the judge been a man.

  78. tiredtexan says

    Paxoll, that is a very good point. But, why are people trying to find something to criticize here? What agenda does that serve?
    And, most importantly, why is this type of criticism never raised in other types of cases, or even in sexual assault cases where male judges lecture male defendants?

  79. Vivec says

    I can only criticize the information that I’m given. I’m not a lawyer or a court reporter – if no one reports on a judge telling the criminal “I hope you die and get raped in jail lol” I can’t respond to it.

    Especially if PZ doesn’t make a blog post about it, given that the comments are supposed to be on topic with the blog posts.

    If you’d like to point ne towards a repository of Judge speeches where they do that’ll gladly call out each and every one by name. Since I don’t have access to such a thing, here’s a form letter:

    Fuck each and every judge – male, female, or otherwise – that sees fit to brag about their role in a corrupt system and their delight to condemn a person to be raped and tortured.

  80. Vivec says

    Maybe there’s a reason why a rape survivor like me might take offense to a powerful elected official saying “Oh man do I wish that I could sentence peope to get rapes lol”

  81. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    tiredtexan @82:

    However, here is a case where women were the victims, where the judge was a woman and allowed over 150 women to give victim statements, and then powerfully and stridently spoke for them to a male criminal, suddenly all these men, for the first time ever in my long 30-year career as a lawyer, complain that this is somehow inappropriate.

    No, I’ve pretty much always been of the opinion that, if purport to have an unbiased justice system, a judge, man or woman, should never do this.

    PZ and the commentariat have, on numerous occasions, called out inappropriate pontificating by judges. For instance, the judge telling the rapists from southern Ohio to make sure there are no pictures next time (not verbatim). The judge is not being called out by me because she is a woman. She is being called out because what she did was, in this case, inappropriate for what our legal system tries (and usually fails) to be.

  82. tiredtexan says

    Vivec: “if no one reports on a judge telling the criminal “I hope you die and get raped in jail lol” I can’t respond to it.”
    The judge did not say this, she said she was giving him a death sentence. Like others, I interpreted that to mean that he would die in prison, not that he would be raped to death. Judges say this kind of stuff during sentencing frequently when life sentences are given. It’s to help the victims feel as though some justice is being done, that the crime they suffered from is being punished. Rightly or wrongly, judges view their role as meting out punishments to criminals, and helping victims feel better through the process. It may or may not work, but that is a different issue.
    Ogvorbis, please note that I am splitting some hairs here, probably due to my professional propensity to do so. I am pointing out that these harsh lectures to defendants are meted out daily. I specifically noted that while there have been criticisms levied at judges for using sentencing hearings to excuse defendant’s sexual assaults, I’ve never seen criticism of the harsh rhetoric used by judging in lecturing defendants. And, I am not saying that no one has criticized the justice and prison systems here, nor am opining on whether lectures during sentencing should or should not be a regular feature of our court system.
    I am saying, why now? Why suddenly, when everyone was fine with male judges lecturing defendants for hundreds of years in all types of cases, is this an issue?
    Could it be nothing more than the fact that many people concerned with the justice system and prisons didn’t know that these lectures routinely include the kind of invective this judge used, and so they didn’t know they should be concerned? I suppose that could be the case, and for some writing here today, it probably is.
    But for all of these male pundits/journalists whose job it is to know, they don’t get a pass. They know male judges do this daily. Like me, they’ve sat in the courts, and watched sentencing hearings by the score, and know, absolutely know, that this type of rhetoric at sentencing is formulaic. They are outraged not by the content of the speech, but by who gave it – by who has the audience.
    This was a powerful victory for women. Maybe the best I can say is that maybe this is just not the time to complain about a powerful woman’s comments borne of her outrage at listening to multiple women recount horrible crimes perpetrated on them when they were children. It doesn’t matter that the criticism is in the guise of reforming the justice system.
    For once, listen to the women. Let them have their victories. Stop policing their tone and method of dealing with it. You just sound like you agree with all those guys who keep telling them to shut up. It’s not a good look.

  83. Vivec says

    I’m not fucking talking about the “death warrant” part.

    The judge ligerally said “If the constitution allowed for cruel and unusual punishment, I would sentence this man to go through what all these victims went through”.

    There is no fucking way of interpreting that in context that isn’t the judge lamenting their inablity to sentence them to punitive rape.

    Go fuck yourself.

  84. Vivec says

    Rape survivors (especially non-male ones) saying that its bad for a fucking judge to wish rape on someone isnt remotely fucking comparable to men disbelieving the stories of rape victims.

    I’m not just going to “listen to the women” when said woman is a powerful official in a corrupt system who literally bragged about her hierarchal power to sentence people to die and is sad that she cant sentence people to get raped

  85. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    I am pointing out that these harsh lectures to defendants are meted out daily.

    And some of us are pointing out that we think it inappropriate for ANY judge to do this.

    I am saying, why now?

    Because PZMyers brought it up.

    Why suddenly, when everyone was fine with male judges lecturing defendants for hundreds of years in all types of cases, is this an issue?


  86. tiredtexan says

    I disagree with you both on the reason why these complaints are coming up now. I think they are, especially on the part of male pundits, merely a pretext to shut up women. You are both alleging that you have the right to disagree with me, that you’ve always argued in good faith on this issue. I don’t doubt that.
    I’ve tried to find examples of where this was raised as an issue by doing searches, but found nothing. Sure, I could have missed something, and could be wrong, but the paucity of evidence that this has been a concern before now shows, if nothing else, it’s been a very low-interest problem.
    Again, I am talking about this single issue, whether or not the criticism of this judge is driven by a group of pundits as a gendered pretext for criticizing a powerful woman. You disagree. Okay.
    But, what I am asking you to see is that others may have, and do have, completely different motivations, and criticize women for everything. I’ve seen it my whole long life.
    I’ve seen judges chew out women and minority lawyers for something that is done in the courtroom daily by male litigators, and when that is pointed out, the judge just gets angrier and yells louder. I’ve seen it my job, where women are talked over, their ideas stolen, their billing hours literally stolen by their male managing lawyers.
    The whole dynamic is about who has power, power to speak, power to compel an audience’s attention and power to persuade. Here, a powerful woman spoke in a manner identical to that done by men in the same position for hundreds of years. She spoke using the same rhetoric as male judges have used for years. So, while this may or not be a good thing to have as part of our system, it is the present system, which is why I find the hand wringing absurd and pretextual.
    I am not arguing that you are sexist, or that use of this rhetoric is appropriate. I am arguing that there are many men the media who are using the judge’s banal rhetoric to tell women to shut up, and that is their motive. It’s not yours, but it’s theirs. And it’s not a good look.
    And, my goodness, why in the world do you have such angst and fury over what I am arguing? I haven’t accused either of you of bad faith, or of inventing your opinion today, nor have I told you to fuck off. I am mystified.

  87. Vivec says



  88. Crys T says

    Good to see so many commenters here recognising that what’s important in this case is that we all focus on commiserating with that poor, poor rapist. Why, he actually had to suffer the indignity of having MEAN THINGS said to him!

    After all, why bother wasting precious time discussing his 100+ victims and the bravery they showed in facing their abuser in public when there’s a man to consider? A man! With man-feelings, who had to endure being publicly censured by a woman (god help us!) for the trifling offense of sexually abusing a mere 150 women and girls.

    I vote we all devote all the time we allot to this case to the discussion of how every woman involved is the *true aggressor and this poor, poor, suffering man is the real vctim. What say you?

    *especially that awful judge woman – I mean, do you REALISE she made the sort of statements judges across the globe do daily & nobody – including the people on this thread who insist they do – actually kicks up anything like this kind of fuss over? And over a mere 150 women and girls? Why, can we think of anything more trivial?

  89. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    Ah. I must be lying, then. No possibility that I am being honest, right? None at all, right?

    I am a survivor. Retributive rape implies that victims deserve rape. What did I do when I was nine to deserve rape?

    You disagree. Okay.

    Apparently, it is not. Your contention is that I, and Vivec, are lying. So we either agree with you that we are sexists and misogynists, or we are lying.

    Fuck off.

  90. Vivec says

    Eat shit crys, It doesn’t become okay to wish rape on people just because they’re human garbage like nassar.

    Glad to know that its okay to prioritize the wishes of some rape survivors over others!

    Prove I don’t kick up a fuss anytime someone I know about wishes retributive rape on someone. Prove it, you spineless piece of shit.

  91. says

    I have repeatedly stated that the US judicial system is fundamentally broken on multiple accounts. I’m not sure if I expressed my complete contempt of the general law and order mindset that infects every aspect of that system here. I do know I routinely criticize judges for being overly harsh in terms of sentences (mandatory minimums are an affront to human decency) AND how they harangue convicts in sentencing hearings. I’m against any judge in any case finding it an honor and privilege to deprive some one of liberty.

    I’m completely against any judge making any sort of comments about appearing/being tough on crime in any context for any reason. I loathe judicial elections for that reason alone and more to the point I consider them a fundamental threat to judicial independence.

    So yeah any judge using a sentencing hearing to heap scorn on convicts is awful.

    It’s also not tone policing. I think the judge’s statement reveals a grossly punitive mindset which I don’t believe belongs in criminal justice *at all.*

    I would kindly ask you to go fuck yourself if you think my argument is motivated by the judge being a woman or this being a sexual predator case. It’s so easy to slip into the punitive mindset in cases like this I think it’s important that someone speaks up.

  92. Vivec says

    Hey guys you know whats totes cool and socially progressive?

    Calling rape survivors misogynists for criticizing the idea of punitive rape!

  93. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    It’s also not tone policing. I think the judge’s statement reveals a grossly punitive mindset which I don’t believe belongs in criminal justice *at all.*

    Which is what I have been arguing since my first comment on this thread! And I have been called a misogynist, a liar, and accused of wanting to coddle a rapist.

    I’m out of here. Triggers are coming hard and fast and I cannot deal with this right now. Sorry.

  94. says

    I cannot say what disgusts me more in this thread:
    The people who indulge in their personal rape and torture fantasies (yes, I agree with Marcus here: Secure and comfortable. Secure so he can no more harm people, comfortable because we are better than him (at least we should be).
    the people whose biggest concern here seems to be that a woman said some harsh words to a man. If you worry not about the sentence, or the conditions in prison, but about how this remarkable woman behaved and what she said, then you really need to do some work.

  95. Vivec says

    Come on, you too Gileil?

    You can’t say that its wrong to wish rape on people and then say we’re wrong for criticizing the judge for literally indulging in that!

  96. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says


    I know I said I was out of here. BUt:

    the people whose biggest concern here seems to be that a woman said some harsh words to a man

    I don’t care that it was a woman saying it to a man. My problem is that statemetns like this call into question the fairness and impartiality of the courts. I think all statements like this one are not right for judges.

    Sorry I haven’t been clear. Multiple times.

  97. Vivec says

    Fine, you know what, whatever.

    Pharyngula isnt a safe space for rape victims, its a place where rape victims get called misogynists for daring to criticize a female judge for literally wishing rape on someone!

    Go fuck yourselves, I have better things to do then get triggered by assholes that think rape is okay if it happens to a sufficiently bad person.

  98. Crys T says

    @Vivec & Ogvorbis
    You know what? I do agree with you about the suggestion of rape as punishment being beyond the pale, no matter how vile the criminal.

    However, I have never, ever seen a judge taken to task to this degree in a case of admitted guilt. Sure, I’ve seen plenty of criticism of judges for making horrible comments to the victims of rape/assault, or for being racist, or making comments during trial that are clearly prejudicial. But never over an admitted criminal.

    So I have to ask myself why. Why is this case the one where everyone suddenly has to opine over the judge’s post-verdict comments? And all I can see is that this is a man who abused women and girls and was sentenced by a woman judge.

    It’s also the first big case of its kind at the height of the #MeToo era, when men who a month or so back were acting horrified at abuse are beginning to grumble about “witch hunts” and “things going too far.”

    It may not be your personal reason for taking the stance you are, but for most of the whining dudes here, it sure as fuck is. Women are standing up and telling their stories of abuse like no time I can remember, and this is pissing a lot of men off. They’ve enjoyed a lifetime of casual sexual assault with pretty much zero threat of repercussions, and any evidence that this is changing infuriates them.

    So, yes, I can’t get on board with every aspect of the judge’s comments, but you know what? I don’t fucking care, as long as the people purpling in righteous indignation over them don’t get even a fraction as wound up over other judges’ even worse comments to victims. And I really don’t give a fuck when so many here are making it crystal clear Nassar’s wellbeing is far, far more important to them than any of his victims’.

    I’m also a survivor, and I’m fed to the teeth with having to be a plaster fucking saint because of it.

  99. Crys T says

    Just saw your comment: eat shit till it comes out your fucking ears, asshole. I’m tired of the “more of a rape survivor than thou” bullshit you & Ogvorbis are trying to pull here. Got news, sunshine: that’s not an experience you’ve got a unique copyright on. Join the fucking queue.

    And way to assume what I meant. You were wrong, as it happens, but I won’t hold my breath waiting for your apology.

  100. says


    we’re wrong for criticizing the judge for literally indulging in that!

    As it has been noted, it is your interpretation, not her words. I know that literally has literally lost its literal meaning, but no.


    My problem is that statements like this call into question the fairness and impartiality of the courts. I think all statements like this one are not right for judges.

    Again, it has been noted that this is
    a) not unusual for a judge
    b) was after the verdict. Is the judge still supposed to act like she cannot say if this man really is a horrible serial abuser after she heard the testimony of 150+ women, heard his admission of guilt, and has been handed the verdict?

  101. Vivec says

    I parahohrased slightly, but the judge did literally say

    Our Constitution does not allow for cruel and unusual punishment. If it did, I have to say, I might allow what he did to all of these beautiful souls, these young women in their childhood, I would allow some or many people to do to him what he did to others.

    So yeah fuck off lol they did literally fantasize about him getting retributive rape

  102. Crys T says

    I’ve had it: so what? I have to deal with dudes fantasising about me being raped all the time. He can fucking deal,. the way women have to every damn day.

    Say one word about his victims. One. Fucking. Word. Or have you forgotten they exist?

  103. says

    @number 113 (Wow, we’re down to calling each other numbers instead of names?)
    Yes, you are right, I did not see that part. That is bad. It is still not the thing most people are upset about because it is not the thing that gets quoted the most. It is not what she’s getting criticised for (and most part of this thread went by without that quote and without it being discussed). If you cannot see the gendered dynamic at play here I don’t think I can make it clear.

  104. Vivec says

    Fantasizing about people being raped is bad no matter who it happens to! What the fuck is wrong with you?

    What the fuck makes you think rape is some nice little thing as long as you’re wishing it on bad people?

    Fuck off, eat shit, and fucking choke on it.

  105. Crys T says

    Stop dramatising yourself while simultaneously grossly misrepresenting what others say.

    I can’t help but notice you flounced earlier. I believe more than once. Yet here you still are.

  106. tiredtexan says

    You know what vivek and Ogvorbis? I am a rape survivor myself, who endured 14 years of sexual abuse at the hands of my own father. I’ve had counseling out the wazoo, but still am ghastly afraid of intimacy and relationships with men. So I get that it’s not a good idea to wish rape on anyone. And, I get that these statements by judges are not really a great idea because we can do better.
    I just think there are a lot of men that want to shut up women over these sexual assault issues, and look for something, anything, to put the spotlight on women for doing something wrong to deflect the attention from this issue. And, this is a convenient cudgel to shut them up. It’s the same reflex that says women shouldn’t get drunk, walk at night, dress provocatively if they don’t want to be raped. It’s a silencing technique for those with bad intentions.
    I don’t often know what to do with valid arguments (judge really shouldn’t have said what she said) that can be twisted for a bad purpose. It gets so darn emotional because there are people who fixate on the fact that the argument is morally correct, and they are right about it. And there are those like me who view it as not letting excellence become the enemy of the good.
    I think the judge, on the whole, did an awesome thing allowing all of these women to testify in open court, and showing as absurd all of Nassar’s selfish arguments. I think the exposure of this horrible crime to the public, the validating and communal concern for the victims helps heal them. I also wish the judge hadn’t said everything she said.
    So, I’d give her a solid 90 out of 100, and I’d say the 90% she did right was far more important than the 10% she did wrong. And I hate that all of this energy and hostility is being directed towards her and those of us who largely agree with her rather than at the true wrongdoers such as Nassar.
    So, yeah, as a rape and sexual abuse survivor myself, I still don’t get why you guys are so angry. I just disagree, and would like to do it respectfully. I apologize if I triggered anyone, and it wasn’t my intent.

  107. Vivec says

    you litterally scoffed and said “so what” about the judge literally lamenting her inability to sentence him to being raped!

    i cant help but noticed i told you to choke on shit, you rape-defending fuck

  108. Vivec says

    ” I still don’t get why you guys are so angry. ”

    then you’re thicker than a fucking shipping container

  109. VolcanoMan says

    @39 thirdmill

    I guess in theory he could appeal his sentence if he felt that the judge was biased against him and could prove it. Of course, he would have to show that said sentence was not in line with any recommendations/requirements she had to deal with, as well as sentences for those convicted of similar crimes. 40 years minimum is not an unreasonable sentence, considering that he’s already serving 60 for possession of child pornography (I don’t know if they’re concurrent or consecutive, but even if concurrent, he’ll never get out of prison). He cannot appeal his guilt because he plead guilty. As I understand it, judges are supposed to be agnostic about guilt or innocence until all the facts are on the table and all arguments made, but when there is an admission (or a jury finding) of guilt, I am not surprised that some judges let the veil of impartiality slip a bit so that they can let the perpetrator know what they truly think of him. She had to listen to more than a week of non-stop victim statements from the people this man harmed; it is fair to say that he was both calculating and thrill-seeking in his abuse – this is a man who constantly crossed the line from treatment into abuse, who carefully planned how he could do these things without being caught, and who cunningly manipulated and gaslighted his victims. And because he was able to get them all to question the nature of his exploits with their bodies, to wonder if it was normal for a doctor to do those things, he was obviously secure in the knowledge that none of them could convince any of their caregivers that abuse was taking place (he often committed his crimes in the presence of a parent or other caregiver). He got away with it for 20+ years, and has 300+ known victims. To say that he is a prolific sex offender is to redefine prolific.

    As for other comments about jail and justice, I am also of the opinion that retribution is NOT (or should not be) a function of the justice system. The justice system exists to keep us safe, and to rehabilitate people who were not able to follow the rules that keep us all safe. It also exists to criminalize poverty and help the upper classes maintain their wealth and power (obviously, it shouldn’t do either of those things, but currently, justice has 20/20 vision). Some people are beyond rehabilitation; keeping them away from society forever is necessary, but incarceration should be as pleasant as possible. As a free will skeptic, I believe that our lot in life is basically random – nobody chooses their genes, parents, society or culture, and all “decisions” people make trace back to those unchosen origins. The job of governments, as I see it, is to even out the differences as much as possible, to give all people their best chance to live fulfilling lives that also benefit society in some way, while ensuring that people whose “fulfillment” requires harming others get help to mitigate those traits (if possible).

    Larry Nassar’s life behind bars should be as comfortable as possible. He’s a creep and a sociopath, but he is also a human being who never chose to be those things. It *should* be an honour and a privilege to have the role of protecting society from people like Nassar. The honour isn’t in the incarceration, it is in the knowledge that future children and teenagers will be able to live lives free of abuse because Nassar will not be in their life. And it is in the commitment to find and remove other, currently active predators from society (through the justice system), to help ensure that ALL people will be confident in the knowledge that their lives will be free of the kinds of harm people like Nassar inflict. So I agree with PZ – this judge seems to get it. I am glad she was eager to help the whole story get told, no matter how long it took (and it took almost twice as long as it was supposed to, SO many people wanted to be heard), so that we, the public, are not confused or deluded about the fact that people like Nassar are out there. People like Nassar are also good at staying out of jail – I have no doubt that the reason Nassar pled guilty was because if this went to trial, and the prosecutor collected each and every victim of his and lined them up, one after another, to give (detailed and consistent) evidence, he would have wound up with thousands of years of accumulated prison sentences. I guess he was hoping for a parole date during his natural life span this way. Seems like his hope cheated him.

  110. Crys T says

    There you go, lying about people’s positions in order to justify your abusive behaviour.

    I’ve made my position explicit above. Again, I won’t hold my breath for your apology for blatantly lying about it.

  111. Vivec says

    blatantly lying my fucking ass, you literally said “so what, he can fucking deal”

    you can fish your apology out of my ass you rape-defending fuck

  112. Crys T says


    I dare you to give the tiniest of shits about Nassar’s victims. I DARE you to care about even one of them the way you’re fawning over his rapist ass.

    And don’t you ever fucking throw the label “rape-defending” into another survivor’s face again as long as you are dying on this fucking hill.

  113. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    tiredtexan (and all other survivors):

    You have my sympathy (which isn’t worth much over the internet). I am sorry you were put through that and I wish there were something I could do to take away the pain.

    I have been fighting, for years, on the side of ‘listen to women’. My part of this discussion has been so lost that I see nothing more I can, or could, or even should, add.

    I am sorry.

  114. tiredtexan says

    Thanks Ogvorbis. And I apologize to you too. I wasn’t trying to add harm to this problem, just trying to praise the judge for what she did right.
    I wanted to focus on how powerful what she did for the victims was, and how important it was. And shed light on the fact that her angry comments were not unusual, severely provoked, and arose from a place of fury and righteousness. Most of her actions were good, but she still said things that were wrong, and I didn’t want her words to overshadow his actions or the victims pain and justice.
    I am trying to move the conversation to where it belongs, with the victims, and point out that the comments made by judge, while in some respects, wrong, aren’t the point, and shouldn’t be the focus of this entire societal drama. I am clearly not doing a very good job at it.
    I probably should go back to lurking.

  115. says

    Fuck off, eat shit, and fucking choke on it.
    Wishing death on other people based on your vivid imagination of what they have said as opposed to what they actually said* is fine on the other hand.
    *quote where I said that wishing rape on somebody was ok.
    Quote me, really.
    But since you can’t, I’m done here. I can see that you are lashing out, but you are not the only person with a history of violence, so I am not going to excuse your dishonest and abusive behaviour.

  116. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Larry Nassar is a vile excuse for a human being. I disagree that a life sentence is not appropriate. There are some crimes for which you cannot atone, and once you have committed them, you cannot be rehabilitated. I would not wish rape on him*, but he should never see the light of day again.

    He should not be forgotten, though. There is still value to come out of his miserable, pathetic life–all of us have to ask what is wrong with our society that this predator was allowed to hurt so many women and girls for so long with impunity. We should sentence ourselves to reforming our society–ideally so that people like Nassar do not exist, but failing that, so that they are apprehended before they do as much damage as this man did.

    *Once he’s dead, I would make a pilgrimage to piss on his grave. Hell, I’d even buy him a tombstone in the shape of a urinal.

  117. says

    It’s not about the harshness of her words. It’s about that they reveal a punitive mindset that is at the base of a lot of the horrific abuses of the judicial system. Maybe it’s expecting too much of people for thinking a judge can remain unmoved by such hallowing testimony (and for the record I think she did the right thing by allowing the testimonies) but what she said was wrong.

    It’s not my concern if the her words negatively impacted Nassar because really his mental state upon hearing them is immaterial. Maybe I would be less queasy (through they are always wrong) about them if we weren’t currently dealing with Trumpianism which thrives on draconian law and order policies.

  118. Marissa van Eck says

    My only concern about this is that it ends up a mistrial. I was watching this on CNN (it’s on at job #1) and almost fell over on hearing her say that. You can bet his lawyers are going to be all over this like white on polished rice.

  119. Crys T says

    @Mike Smith
    I’d agree IF we had this much dialogue over judges’ comments on a regular basis​, and not only when it was a woman judge commenting on a rapist.

    But that just does not happen. The only time we seem to get this level of criticism is when the judge was insulting a victim or being openly bigoted.

    That is the problem here, and it is flat-out unacceptable. I don’t want to hear people who only care when the judge is a woman censuring a multiple rapist.

  120. billyjoe says

    Many of us missed this statement by the judge:

    Our Constitution does not allow for cruel and unusual punishment. If it did, I have to say, I might allow what he did to all of these beautiful souls, these young women in their childhood, I would allow some or many people to do to him what he did to others

    That’s because we only read the transcript of her sentencing statement which does not contain that quote:


    However, it seems she did say this near the end of the first day of the sentencing hearing:


    I agree, as I think does everyone else, that the judge went too far In that instance. At least she didn’t include it in the final sentencing statement.

  121. tiredtexan says

    Mike, I don’t think anyone is arguing that what the judge said was appropriate or defensible. I think we are all saying it’s a nit, compared to the broader issues. And, we are pointing out that for those arguing in bad faith, they are providing a reason for the public to focus not on what happened to what happened to the victims, not on what the judge actually did, not on the failures of the system that victimized these young women repeatedly, and not on Nassar, but rather on that one or two terrible things that woman judge said, thus effectively changing the subject.
    I can’t speak for everyone here, but from my read we all believe that the justice system needs an overhaul, and that the judge was careless with her words. We just don’t think it should eclipse the real issues.

  122. Crys T says

    I’m no legal expert, but my understanding is that as he pleaded guilty and the comments were made after the verdict, there’s no chance of that.

    Maybe those with knowledge can weigh in?

  123. tiredtexan says

    As a lawyer, I can say that the chance of this ending in mistrial is 0. The judge declares mistrial during a trial. This was post-trial, during sentencing. Moreover, on appeal, the only thing that could be argued is that the judge’s comments showed that Nassar received a cruel and unusual sentence, because the judge was prejudiced against him as shown by her comments. Guilt will not be at issue on any appeal, because Nassar pleaded guilty. Only the sentence imposed. And, if it is with the sentencing guidelines, it is highly unlikely that any appellate court will accept write to hear the case, much less overturn a sentence within the laws allowable sentencing guidelines.
    Had the judge said these things before a finding of guilt before a jury, that would be reversible error. However, this is sentencing. Guilt is determined. Judges do this EVERY SINGLE DAY during sentencing. There is nothing novel or strange about it. I’ve heard far more inflammatory rhetoric in sentencing hearings. Really.

  124. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    I think the judge herself might not be proud of her comments, but judges are human, and Nassar just barely so. Still, sentences used to be more colorful. This was the sentence of Alferd Packer, who was found to have resorted to cannibalism when he and his fellow prospectors got snowed in while trying to cross the Rockies. According to a local paper, the Judge said:
    “Stand up yah voracious man-eatin’ sonofabitch and receive yir sintince. When yah came to Hinsdale County, there was siven Dimmycrats. But you, yah et five of ’em, goddam yah. I sintince yah t’ be hanged by th’ neck ontil yer dead, dead, dead, as a warnin’ ag’in reducin’ th’ Dimmycratic populayshun of this county. Packer, you Republican cannibal, I would sintince ya ta hell but the statutes forbid it.”

    Sadly, it appears as if the local paper exaggerated the color in the sentence, but the words “…dead, dead, dead…” do appear in the official court record. Packer death sentence was eventually overturned, and he did survive his long prison sentence, eventually leading a quiet life…as a vegetarian. The grill in the Student Center at the University of Colorado (my alma mater) is called the Alferd Packer Grill.

  125. Crys T says

    Thanks, tiredtexan. That’s what I’d heard elsewhere, but good to have it confirmed.

    Looking at the comments upthread, it seems some people are under the impression the judge made her comments during the trial. It’s pretty significant to note they were made during sentencing.

  126. billyjoe says

    Crys T,

    To be clear, the judge made that statement during the sentencing hearing – when the victim’s statements were being heard. It was not included in her finalsentencing statement.

  127. unclefrogy says

    while it may be true that there are those pundits that are complaining about the comments the judge made at sentencing and are doing so because she is a woman and they have never or rarely complained about other judges before. They are not here now and do not as a rule ever comment here.
    these are very difficult issues to discuss dispassionately to say the least and a sign of failure on many fronts. as mirrored in the arguments.
    uncle frogy

  128. billyjoe says


    Everyone can comment for themselves, but I think you are correct. Certainly I did not see it in terms of the judge being a woman, and I’ve seen little evidence in this commentary section that others have done so.

    And, yes, their have been a lot of failures to appreciate and understand what others are saying. The best policy in this regard is to put the most charitable interpretation on what another poster has said until proven otherwise.

    Otherwise all we get is a lot of swearing and shouting and personal abuse. And It seems contradictory to be heaping abuse while discussing abuse (not that it is on the same scale of course)

  129. Crys T says

    @unclefrogy & billyjoe
    It’s all well & good to say that this discussion is not happening because the judge in question is a woman, reality doesn’t bear that out. As tiredtexan has pointed out, the type of comments she made are ROUTINE in courtrooms around the country (possibly around the world), and in fact were somewhat mild compared to many. If what you’re asserting were true, you’d be calling this atuff out on a daily basis.

    You know full well you don’t. Not here, certainly, and I seriously doubt anywhere else. This is the ONLY time I can remember this type of discussion happening for a clearly guilty defendant.
    And the difference between this case and every other is plain to see. You can deny the judge’s gender is affecting your response all you like, but that won’t change reality that you are reacting to this case differently​.

    A woman in power said some pretty harsh things to a man, publicly, and you collectively lose your shit over it. That’s all I’m seeing here.

  130. unclefrogy says

    crys. this is not some other site, this is pharyngula at free thought blogs.
    I have been reading this for a while and I have read zero comments made here that ever took the tack you are fighting with not now for sure. There may have been some rare temporary visitors who would have taken that line but I have heard no regulars ever say anything remotely like that.
    This issue makes everybody get kind of excited and emotional it sure does me
    from what has been said up thread sounds like many judges are trying to be judge Judy they sure are not trying to be judge Hardy.
    uncle frogy

  131. Tethys says

    Just for the record, I would criticize any judge that implies that rape is a just punishment for any scum bag. . The fact that this judge is a woman really doesn’t enter the equation. Expressing the hope that the rapist will become a victim of the same crime while imprisoned is simply heinous behavior for a judge. Vengence is not going to help anyone.

  132. says

    Here’s the problem:
    1. This discussion hasn’t started on Pharyngula. It’s been around the block for a few days. There is a context and you cannot remove yourselves from it.

    2. The complaints about the judge’s words, here and everywhere else started well before that one really horrible and indefensible sentence surfaced. That one sentence that must and should be rejected does not retroactively justify all the other complaints.

    3. The context is ignored. For all I’ve heard, the judge was a terrific advocate for the victims. She allowed them to testify, to confront Nasser. She rejected his games and victim blaming. None of this is being discussed here. The victims are erased. Indeed the only remaining”victim” is Nasser.
    It’s not about “I would always criticise a judge who would say this”, it’s about where, when and with what intensity this is happening and what is not being said.
    For the record, I’m pretty much a prison abolitionist. Nasser is probably one of the cases where nevertheless society must be protected, so he should be kept secure, but I don’t support hurting him, letting him rot, etc.
    But none of this has any bearing on this discussion, because it ain’t going to happen soon.

  133. Rob Grigjanis says

    Giliell @50:

    the judge was a terrific advocate for the victims

    Is that the judge’s job?

    Throughout the proceedings, which were televised, Aquilina essentially transformed herself into a champion for a movement. It is understandable to feel empathy for previously voiceless victims, especially ones whose testimony took such bravery. But there are crucial distinctions between judge and advocate, and she traversed those lines repeatedly.

    (my bolding)

  134. billyjoe says

    Crys T,

    You can deny the judge’s gender is affecting your response all you like, but that won’t change reality that you are reacting to this case differently​.

    Like azkyroth, you should actually read what people say before responding.

    I actually supported what the judge said in her sentencing statement. The accused had pleaded guilty, so there was no trial. This was a sentencing hearing and I see no problem in her advocating for the victims and telling the guilty party what she thought of him in the manner that she did in her sentencing statement. Problem was I had only read the sentencing statement. I was unaware of her comment during the sentencing hearing. In my opinion, she went too far with that statement. Also, I am not in the habit of following what judges say during sentencing procedures so I cannot compare what she said to what male Judges say. So, the judges sex played no role in my comments at all

  135. Crys T says

    I have read every fucking comment here, so stick your sneering condescension straight up your ass.

    You can repeat the same bullshit 1000 times, it won’t magically become any more true. All you dudes are treating this particular judge’s comments as some sort of shocking aberration that you absolutely must specifically call out, when in fact they are run of the mill, and possibly even a bit restrained in comparison to others.

    You say you’re unfamiliar with the type of comments judges typically make. Ok. Well, maybe ask yourself why exactly this particular judge’s comments in this particular case are suddenly big news. The answer is more than clear.

    So maybe stop contributing to the misogynist agenda that is making them a sudden issue. As has been said for years now, intent isn’t magic: if you are supporting that agenda, it doesn’t matter if you didn’t mean to. It’s been pointed out to you now, you have no excuse.

  136. Crys T says

    The asshole pleaded guilty. Are you capable of comprehending what that means? It means no one, not even the judge, is required to be impartial.

    So stop your weeping over the mean, mean things people are saying about that poor, unfairly maligned rapist who only admitted to brutalising a mere 150+ women.

    Again, I fucking challenge any of you dudes here who are so committed to fighting for the canonisation of the martyr St Nassar to say anything showing you give even the tiniest of shits for the actual victims.

  137. says

    @Crys T

    That other people are forwarding the complaint in bad faith doesn’t mean it’s not worth expressing or I’m doing it in bad faith/hypocritically. I’ve made myself clear I consider the judicial system fundamentally broken and I’ve hinted at I see a connection to Trumpianism. What the judge said is routine; it’s no less disgusting because it was routine. It’s more so. I clearly have condemned all examples of similar behavior.

    If I am not allowed to forward an argument that has been argued in bad faith by others, especially on issues of gender, then I’m not allowed to forward *any* argument because someone somewhere has pursued it under bad faith.

    Deal with what I am saying individually or please don’t respond.


    We disagree with on the import of the broader issues. Nassar has been punished and his victims can begin healing. There’s nothing I personally can do to help them other than like boycott the Olympics. No one is saying Nassar is anything but a garbage human.

    I’m of the opinion that single greatest problem in this country is crass authorizationism that drives our worship of police and deference to the broken judicial system. I can’t but see the judge’s comments as a token of that.

    Nassar (just) happens to be getting what he deserves. But embedded in the judge’s words is the same orientation that wrecks kids lives because they send a nude selfie.

    CA is poised to destroy judicial independence because the mob must get its pound of flesh in the Brock Turner case.

    So excuse me if I consider it more important to kick against the harshness of judicial system then to just be one more voice speaking up for the victims.

  138. says

    Nassar’s well being is immaterial to the fucking point.

    With that aside, it’s not inconceivable that some of Nassar’s victims would also take issue with judge’s comments.

  139. Crys T says

    @Mike Smith
    Again, I call bullshit as long as none of you are kicking up anything like this fuss over any other case. You have chosen THIS ONE TIME to make a judge’s comments to an admittedly guilty offender a major issue. You can indignantly splutter about how it’s just that you care oh, so much about reforming a deeply flawed system, but when you only really bother here and now, you are full of it.

    Also, your invoking Nassar’s victims only so you can speculate on their possible support of your position is beyond despicable. It’s grotesque. Fuck you.

  140. call me mark says

    Crys T:

    Just remember here that you are defending a judge saying, in effect “I wish I could sentence you to be raped”.

    Talk about grotesque.

  141. Crys T says

    And wow: was so pissed off at you appropriating the voices of rape victims to support your Nassar Pity Party, missed that you are also weeping over that other poor rapist, Brock Turner.

    Fuck you again​. Don’t ever come at me claiming you’re in any way on the side of Right while you’re​ championing rapist scum.

  142. Crys T says

    @call me snark
    Fuck off upthread to #110, then get the fuck out of my face. Maybe go (consensually) lovingly tongue more rapist ass. It seems to be what all you dudes are best at.

  143. says

    I have years of comments on social media denouncing the judicial system. I’m completely sure I’ve complained about other judge’s harsh sentencing in other venue if not here per se.. That you can’t recall me doing so doesn’t have any fucking baring on my internal consistency. I know I have gotten into long fights here over why I consider sex offenders registration unjust. I’ve also have had long arguments here about why calling Brock Turner a rapist in judicial contexts is wrong.

    You have decided that I must be acting in bad faith because many other people are. I don’t believe it’s possible to convince you otherwise. I could literally link to multiple statements by me throughout the years denouncing various aspects of the judicial system, including mind you harsh statements from judges against convicts, and I don’t believe it would matter. You require a pound of flesh and god damn any qualm a person might have.

    I see no reason to continue with a person who is acting in bad faith by assuming I am.

  144. call me mark says

    We’re not allowed to criticize a female judge for anything lest it be interpreted as misogynist. Gotcha.

  145. says

    Brock Turner should have been sentenced to a much longer jail term. The judge still shouldn’t be removed (recalled) over it because no judge should be removed due to a single error, a bet a legal one. I’m against the recall effort because it will destroy judicial independence and chill any sort of lenincy a judge might wish to grant.

    Turner is not, legally, a rapist because he wasn’t convicted of rape. But other than those two things Turner means nothing to me. I’m glad he’s no longer in college etc.

    You seem completely unable to separate legal standards of conduct from moral ones. Or unable to realize that have qualms over the treatment in a case is about more than that case. I don’t care about Turner. I care about the future black and brown lives ruined because the judge is scared shitless to hand out anything but the maximum least he gets recalled.

  146. Crys T says

    @Mike Smith
    You’re openly siding with men who sexually abused women. The only time you mention their victims is to either say other people are talking about them, so why do you need to bother, or to speculate with absolutely no evidence that they might support your position.

    You are a bad person, Mike.

    @call me mark
    Aww, now you’re all pissy because I specifically said the opposite of what you claimed.

    Also, genius, it is misogynist when you only call out a female judge while male judges do exactly the same thing multiple times a day, every day of the fucking week.

    This judge makes your pee pees feel weak. Good. Cry and scream some more.

    Now, maybe you and Mike can find another nice rapist to champion.

  147. Crys T says

    We crossposted.

    I don’t actually give a flying one about how a misogynist legal system defines rape.

    Also, black & brown men are already sentenced disproportionately, Turner or no. I don’t believe throwing the book at one white boy will matter one jot.

  148. call me mark says

    Crys T is a mindreader and somehow knows that not a single person here has ever criticised anything a male judge has ever said.

    OK so you may not be openly championing this “let’s sentence people to be raped” but you’re happy to sweep the splash damage from it under the carpet. (Ugh. Horribly mixed metaphor.)

  149. rietpluim says

    Did a topic about one of the worst sex offenders in US history just derail into an argument about something the judge said?

  150. billyjoe says

    Crys T,

    I have read every fucking comment here, so stick your sneering condescension straight up your ass.


    If you read every one of my comments, then you couldn’t possibly have read them properly. In fact you couldn’t even have read my last comment properly because, in that comment, I explained that I supported everything the judge said in her sentencing statement. Was I somehow a misogynist when I supported her? Then I found the comment she made earlier and found I couldn’t support that. I didn’t even factor in the fact that she was a woman. I would have said the same if the judge had been a male. I am not in the habit of reading judge’s sentence statements, so I had no idea this sort of thing is commonplace. I also explained that in my last comment. But, for some reason that I can’t fathom, you want to insist that I am a misogynist.

  151. tiredtexan says

    rietpluim – Yes, and that is one of my main concerns.

    This judge did something remarkable. She gave these women a voice to tell the perpetrator and the world just what they suffered. The women were listened to, believed, given a voice – after years of being called liars, of being ignored, of being exploited by the US Olympics, and re-victimized by law enforcement and the adults and institutions around them. It was such a rare thing I was astounded by it.

    But, here and elsewhere, most people seem to be concentrating on the one small thing that the judge did wrong, thus, sidetracking the conversation to criticize a few injudicious comments (borne of her anger and frustration at listening to what this man did to over 150 children, and his excuses, whining and victim-blaming). She wasn’t perfect, but she did more than anyone else to help these victims heal, as studies have routinely shown that healing is greatly enhanced just by being believed, and then seeing some justice. I have heard that her comments were so beyond the pale that his conviction can be overturned, or that mistrial is imminent. None of this is true. Nassar pleaded guilty, and the judge’s comments were post trial, during sentencing. The judge didn’t make a ruling on Nassar’s guilt, that was already determined when he pleaded guilty. So the only realistic possibility on appeal is that his sentence would be overturned. This, too, while possible, is highly unlikely given that the judge’s sentence was within the legal guidelines.

    So, in my opinion, the judge did something heroic. 99% of her comments were fine, as the judge’s role in sentencing is to judge the defendant. 1% of her comments were a bit harsh, but not really unusual when heinous crimes have been committed. Her actions were truly astounding. Nonetheless, this remarkable and wonderful judge is being excoriated non-stop because she didn’t do things perfectly, which allows the conversation to be turned, yet again, to what a woman didn’t do perfectly, when men do the same thing daily without comment. In the law, we call this pretextual. When an employer fires a black employee for being late once or twice, but doesn’t fire a white employee for the same or worse conduct, the law allows damages because the reason for the firing is a pretext. Attacking the judge here is a pretext to allow bad actors to trash a woman who stood up for women sexual assault victims, and to stop the progress towards making women’s abuse a national topic of conversation.

    Proof of how effective this tactic has been is shown on this thread and on hundreds of others, and by all of the articles talking about how awful the judge acted. It’s wrong and unhelpful. I think we should choose our battles wisely, and this is incredibly unwise and simply aids those with bad intentions.

  152. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    Again, I view it as what a judge did not do properly. What an entire legal system does not do properly. Suggesting retributive rape is wrong. It states, baldly, that people deserve to be raped.

    But, of course, I am a mysogynist, rapist supporter, anti-woman and ‘more of a rape survivor than you’, so, again, keep reading into what I have written, where I stand, and excoriate me for derailing intentionally in order to demean a woman judge. I guess that’s who I am.

    Goodbye, all.

  153. tiredtexan says

    Ogvorbis, it has never been my intent to call you a “misogynist, rape supporter, anti-woman, or “more of a rape survivor than [me].” If that is what it sounds like I am saying, I apologize.

    I am saying that even though you are right that the judge should never had said some of the things that she did, and that discussions need to be had about all of the comments like this, among other things, in our justice system, my preference would be to have these conversations in a situation where the all of the issues surrounding the horrible justice system are discussed, not in a situation where excellence is used as a tool to bludgeon good.

    You get to say what you want, and disagree with me. I don’t think you are one of these people who is trying to make things go back to where they were. But I just think that there are lots of bad actors who love when those of us who are trying to move forward on issues regarding women’s rights and the justice system fight each other, and pick apart each other (including this progressive judge) to derail true progress. I think they love when we agree that one flaw rarely even noticed is used to derail and debase the entire narrative.

    I am just trying to convince others that this really was an amazing step forward, and many, many of those that have pointed out where the judge erred are doing so to sow discord among us, and derail the discussion.

    I think we are our own worst enemies. We let our natural propensity to seek justice and fairness focus on the one thing that was wrong, rather than focus on the thousand things that were right. And we do this at our peril. We are divided, unfocused, and at each other’s throats, ALL ON ISSUES WE ACTUALLY AGREE ON, BUT ONLY ASSIGN DIFFERING LEVELS OF IMPORTANCE.

    Thanks for listening.

  154. Tethys says

    Crys T has a history here of being an asshole. They are absolutely aware that they are in fact attacking rape victims because those victims pointed out that the goal of locking up the rapist is NO RAPE. Then claimed that it was the various non-female gendered rape victims misogyny that is making them criticize the judges remark.
    Nobody here has claimed that the judge is being so unfair to the poor, poor, rapist. If anything unfair is happening it is Crys T being an enormous arse, and using this thread to show just how hateful they are while claiming to be about justice. I count at leat two victims that have had PTSD triggered so far you ragey piece of crap. GTFO

  155. says

    Crys T you might not care or even know the basic realities of the legal system but I do. For example recalling the judge in the Turner case does nothing to correct the far to light sentence of Turner. Turner served his time and he cannot be retried/re-sentenced because of double jeopardy. There’s nothing the legal system can do until (and if) he reoffends. The judge already transferred himself to civil cases so it’s not even needed to ensure that the judge won’t hand out to light of a sentence.

    I’m aware that black and brown lives are already hit harder. But they can be hit far harder still. If the judge in the Turner case is successfully recalled I give 4-6 months before a judge faces a recall and/or retention fight because the right deemed them too soft on a case involving an undocumented immigrant and/or black person. This is as much of a threat too judicial independence as Trump appointing minions and the way Senate Republicans saved seats for him.

  156. says

    This was a painful thread to read. I see good points on both sides. But the relationships of the issues to the present situation are not the same. It’s worth considering the moment and the concern because I believe that both can be affirmed, and social momentum maintained.

    It matters that this is the moment when these young women are getting some justice, any justice. In the context the metoo zeitgeist (I hope I’m using that right) the fact that criticism is one of the tools that is used to prevent conversation matters. Maintaining momentum matters. And the idea of sex/gender bias in criticism of judges is entirely believable. Feeling the moment of justice and carrying it forward should be done.

    It’s also reasonable to be disturbed by delight in suffering in addition to justice. And the same kind of abuses are happening in a very different social context. This seems like a place where everyone could benefit. If I’m wrong I would be a benefit to see how.

  157. Simple Desultory Philip says

    wow. wow.


    i’m a longtime (like years-long) lurker here, and i don’t comment much. but wow. it’s really surprising and disappointing seeing so many folks jump in to defend a statement like the one made by this judge about wishing she could inflict cruel and unusual punishment on a human being, if only it wasn’t for that pesky constitution – and in the name of feminism. you know what? fuck off with that perfect-is-the-enemy-of-the-good shit right here. just, no. like what, we should all start supporting the white-cis-het-feminists now because it would be really terrible to call out any racist-transphobic-queerphobic shit from a feminist activist because after all, she’s still a WOMAN and WOMEN have been so marginalized and we can’t risk losing that toehold we got through that white-cis-het-feminist into white-cis-het-male feelings?? because that’s how alllllll of these defenses of this woman’s words about wishing prison rape on this rapist read. no matter how many of them you spill.

    my feminism will be intersectional or it will be shit, and that includes denouncing rape, including prison rape, and the culture at large/any individual that normalizes it and sees it as fitting punishment for crimes committed, no matter the gender of who utters those views. no matter what *other* people may do and say, or how many of them there are.

    as a human who was abused by a coach lo these many years ago in high school in america, i have been following this trial closely. i saw that statement by the judge, in real time. it made me cry. not in a good way.

    vivec: internet hug, if you want one.

    peace out, y’all.

  158. says

    Brony, you mirror my sentiments exactly.
    To me this topic is a prime example of how unmoderated discussion can quickly devolve into a shouting match whenever someone misunderstands something and(or) an asshole starts spouting expletives unchecked. Inevitable escalation ensues.
    The result of this topic – multiple triggered and hurt people and valuable information very thinly dispersed in a thick pool of sick.

  159. Simple Desultory Philip says

    fuck, man. hugs also extended to ogvorbis, and tiredtexan, and crys t, and ALL survivors in this thread, if you want them; i hope your healing is possible, and that it progresses.

  160. tiredtexan says

    I’ve really tried to be respectful of different arguments, consider them carefully and respond with logic and reason BECAUSE THIS BLOG IS DEVOTED TO THOSE PRINCIPLES.

    I’ve been told to fuck off, called stupid, and repeatedly insulted. Bullying and emotion are used as cudgels to try to support an allegedly moral high ground.

    Does anyone really believe such tactics actually change minds? Persuade anyone to think differently? I just think it entrenches people in their beliefs, no matter how good or bad.

    Congratulations, we are them, as ugly and hateful and manipulative and bullying as those that hate social justice.

    And I will go back to lurking because I have no intention of allowing myself to be subject to the abuse several of you guys so casually, morally and righteously dish out.

  161. David Marjanović says

    So I have to ask myself why. Why is this case the one where everyone suddenly has to opine over the judge’s post-verdict comments?

    How many people here knew judges in the US routinely make such comments? I didn’t, and I still have no idea if that ever happens elsewhere in the world (here for instance, which is very much not the US). I think Hanlon’s Razor applies.

    Different topic: “Spock” is an insult now!?!

  162. Matrim says

    @187, David

    It’s referring to the term “Vulcan,” which implies the person advocates “logic” at the expense of all else. It’s a slightly less obvious way of calling your opponent heartless.

  163. Porivil Sorrens says

    Which is ironic, given that Spock was a poor example of vulcan no-emotion-hyper-logic

  164. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    In this case I think “Spock” was aimed specifically at Vivec, whose avatar has distinctly Vulcanish ears.