A family court judge in New Jersey has been roundly admonished by the state’s appeals court for ruling that a teenager accused of raping an intoxicated girl and then sharing a video of the assault with friends deserved leniency because he came from a “good family,” was an Eagle Scout and attended “an excellent school.”
“He is clearly a candidate for not just college but probably for a good college,” Judge James Troiano of Superior Court wrote of the 16-year-old defendant, identified only as G.M.C. in court documents. Troiano went on to question whether the rape victim and her family had understood “the devastating effect” that pressing charges would have “on G.M.C.’s life.”
The judge also argued that rape “tradition[ally]” involved two or more males using a weapon to threaten a victim in an “abandon[ed] house,” “shed” or “shack” — circumstances not matching G.M.C.’s alleged crime.
Prosecutors say the boy filmed himself penetrating a 16-year-old girl from behind at a dark basement party in New Jersey. The victim was allegedly so intoxicated at the time that she staggered as she walked.
The defendant allegedly shared the cellphone video with his friends with a text message that read, “When your first time having sex was rape.”
Prosecutors say the boy continued to circulate the video months after the alleged assault but denied it when confronted by the victim.
The Monmouth County prosecutor’s office recommended in September 2017 that G.M.C. be tried as an adult because his actions at the party were “both sophisticated and predatory.”
“Filming a cellphone video while committing the assault was a deliberate act of debasement,” the prosecutor wrote. “And, in the months that followed, he lied to [the victim] while simultaneously disseminating the video and unabashedly sharing the nature of his conduct therein. This was neither a childish misinterpretation of the situation, nor was it a misunderstanding. G.M.C.’s behavior was calculated and cruel.”
Judge Troiano, however, denied the waiver to try the defendant as an adult.
G.M.C. is an Eagle Scout and “comes from a good family who put him in an excellent school where he was doing extremely well,” the judge wrote in his decision.
As for the sexually explicit messages about the alleged assault that the teen had penned, Troiano said it was “just a 16-year-old kid saying stupid crap to his friends.”
But the state’s appellate court disagreed with Troiano’s assessment.
In a blistering decision last month, the court reversed Troiano’s ruling.
“That the juvenile came from a good family and had good test scores we assume would not condemn the juveniles who do not come from good families and do not have good test scores from withstanding waiver application,” the panel wrote.
As NJ.com noted, a few days after that reversal, the appellate court reversed another family court judge’s decision in an unrelated sexual assault case ― and similarly rebuked that judge for her ruling.
According to the panel’s decision in that second case, Superior Court Judge Marcia Silva had denied a motion to try a 16-year-old boy, identified in court documents as E.R.M., as an adult on charges that he sexually assaulted a 12-year-old girl.
The victim alleged that E.R.M. penetrated her “with force” in 2017 despite her “repeatedly” saying no, biting him and asking him to stop. She began to bleed, prosecutors say, and eventually succeeded in pushing the boy off before running to a nearby friend’s home.
In her decision to deny the waiver, Silva wrote that the girl’s assault claim, even if true, “is not an especially heinous or cruel offense beyond the elements of the crimes that the waiver statute intends to target.”
″[B]eyond losing her virginity, the State did not claim that the victim suffered any further injuries, either physical, mental or emotional,” Silva wrote.
The appellate court reversed Silva’s decision and chastised the judge for her “minimization of the harm wrought on a twelve-year-old child by E.R.M., assuming her claims are true.”
Following the appellate court’s reversals, both cases may move from family court to a grand jury, where E.R.M. and G.M.C. would be treated as adults.
Christopher Gramiccioni, the Monmouth County prosecutor, told New Jersey radio station 101.5 FM that he intended to present the case involving G.M.C. to a grand jury. He later told Time magazine that his office was ”assessing our next steps, which will include discussions with the victim and her family.”
Middlesex County prosecutor Andrew Carey, whose office is handling E.R.M.’s case, said in a statement that his decision to seek a waiver had not been made lightly.
“In a very small amount of cases, the right thing to do is to file a motion to waive a juvenile up to adult court. Prior to doing so, I consider all of the relevant factors extremely carefully,” Carey told BuzzFeed.
Correction: Language has been amended to reflect that the grand juries in the respective proceedings against the teenagers would help determine whether they will be indicted, rather than determine their guilt or innocence. More details have also been included about the prosecutors’ possible next steps in both cases.