UPDATE: Nassar judge steps down after Facebook “like”

UPDATE: 4:50 p.m. – According to Eaton Co. District Court, Judge Julie O’Neill has recused herself from the Nassar case. Judge Julie Reincke has been assigned it.

Attorneys for Larry Nassar want an Eaton County judge removed because they say the judge “liked” a Facebook post about the case.

The former MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor faces more than 20 charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct at the state level. Most of them are in Ingham County, but several charges are in Eaton County.

Nassar also faces federal child pornography charges.

On top of the criminal cases, more than 70 women are also suing him in civil court.

The motion, filed on Monday by Nassar’s attorneys Matthew Newburg and Shannon Smith, says Judge Julie O’Neill liked a Facebook post by the attorney for one of those women.

A Facebook post entered as evidence shows Judge O’Neill liked a status in February by Jamie White, one of the attorneys representing clients in the Nassar case. He is quoted as saying: “I think what you’re going to hear and what we have heard over the course of the last several months is that there is some sort of medical procedure that he was performing on these women and that this procedure is appropriate and it’s been accepted in the medical community.” It goes on to say: “And I can tell you, we have spent an enormous amount of time trying to find someone inside the medical community to support this and to date we have been unsuccessful.”

The filing says: “A central issue in this instant case will be the legitimacy and acceptability of the medical treatments which have given rise to the charges.”

Nassar’s attorneys want the judge to be disqualified because she has “failed to adhere to the appearance of impropriety.”

“Here, the ‘like’ could have not only been seen by Judge O’Neill’s 1,087 Facebook ‘friends,’ but also could have been seen by anyone who viewed the post on White Law, PLLC’s Facebook page, where the post was initially made,” the filing says. “There is no question that the public could perceive this court’s ‘like’ as an endorsement of the statement criticizing Nassar’s defense.”

It goes on to say that on March 17, Nassar’s attorneys met with the former MSU doctor who is “very concerned about the court’s ability to be impartial based on the ‘like’ for this post that completely undermines his defense.”

“Here, when Judge O’Neill ‘liked’ White Law, PLLC’s post, Judge O’Neill essentially publicly agreed with the opinion that medical treatments performed by Nassar were improper— an issue this court will undoubtedly have to address at the preliminary examination.”

Both Newburg and Smith denied further comment on the filing.

This isn’t the first time Nassar’s attorneys have filed a motion to ensure Nassar has a right to a fair trial.

Earlier this month, a judge granted the defense’s motion that limits the amount of public disclosure in the sexual assault investigation against Nassar.

It includes the Attorney General and lawyers who are working the case against him.

It comes in the form of a stipulated order that says none of the lawyers appearing in this case can express their opinion on the investigation as it continues.

The motion came weeks after Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette held a press conference where he called the case against Nassar “one of the biggest in Michigan’s history.” Schuette also called Nassar “disgusting,” “despicable” and a “monster” when discussing the details of the sexual assault allegations listed in an affidavit that helped bring more charges against Nassar.

The filing said the Attorney General’s statement were “jeopardizing Nassar’s right to a fair trial.”

Nassar has maintained his innocence in both state and federal court and says the treatments he performed on his patients were accepted medical techniques.

The preliminary hearing in Ingham County will be on two days, May 12 and May 26. The preliminary hearing in Eaton County has been set for June 30.

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