Two New Jersey Family Court Judges Overturned In Teen Sexual Assault Rulings

Sources: BuzzFeed.com, NJ Radio 101.5

In Monmouth County, a drunk 16-year-old male filmed himself assaulting an intoxicated 16-year-old female from behind in a darkened basement during a party. Monmouth County prosecutors said the teen later sent the video to seven of his friends, texting them, “[w]hen your first time having sex was rape.”

The prosecutors sought to charge the teen as an adult, saying that the alleged victim was “visibly intoxicated, physically helpless and unable to provide consent,” making his behavior “sophisticated and predatory.” But family court Judge James Troianc denied the motion on the grounds that the defendant was an Eagle Scout who came “from a good family” and who could get into a “good college” because of his excellent grades.

Troiano also suggested that the defendant’s alleged actions didn’t fit “the traditional case of rape” — which, according to him, occurs when “two or more men…clearly manhandle” a victim at gunpoint; dismissed the text message as “stupid crap” that 16-year-olds say to their friends; and expressed concern that the prosecutor had not “explained” to the alleged victim “the devastating effect” the case would have on the accuser’s life if he was tried as an adult.

In Middlesex County, family court Judge Marcia Silva decided to not try a 16-year-old accused of raping a 12-year-old as an adult, determining that the teen’s actions were not “especially heinous or cruel”: because the victim only lost her virginity and bled, the judge believed there had not been “especially serious harm” since neither “extreme violence(,)…a weapon” nor “excessive force” had been involved. Judge Silva also cast doubt on the 12-year-old alleged victim’s credibility and questioned why prosecutors had dismissed the teen’s claim that the sex was consensual.

A two-judge state appellate court overturned Troiano’s decision, criticized his apparent bias towards teens from “good families,” and admonished him for sounding like he was conducting a trial instead of “neutrally” reviewing the prosecutor’s waiver. Three days later, the same two judges overturned Silva’s ruling. While the original court documents in these cases are sealed, the controversial opinions came to light when the appellate division made their rulings late last month.

Many cases involving juveniles never make it before a judge because the law allows for “stationhouse adjustments” in which local police departments work with victims and the families of juveniles to make restitution and provide consequences such as community service.

More serious offenses result in proceedings in Family Court, which are closed to the public in order to protect the juvenile suspects’ privacy and not presented to juries. Juveniles are not found guilty, but “adjudicated delinquent.” Punishment can include incarceration, but judges usually hand down probationary sentences. Their records are kept from public view or background checks.

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