A New Jersey family court judge denied a motion to prosecute a 16-year-old accused rapist as an adult last year because the teen came from a "good family," did "extremely well" in school, and "his scores for college entry were very high," according to court documents. He also scolded the prosecutor for not telling the victim's family that pressing charges would have a "devastating effect" on the accused teen's life.
Judge James Troiano of Superior Court is now under fire for the way he has handled the allegations. Although family court cases are often closed to the public, his remarks have surfaced following an appeals court panel's decision reversing his ruling. The case echoes other high-profile sexual assault cases in which the defendants, usually young men such as Brock Turner and Jacob Walter Anderson, have been shown more sympathy than their alleged victims and, in certain instances, received extremely lenient sentences.
The accused teen in the case, only identified as "G.M.C." in court documents, sexually assaulted a visibly intoxicated 16-year-old girl, identified by the alias "Mary," at a house party. He used his phone to film himself penetrating Mary from behind and afterward shared the video with at least seven of his friends, prosecutors said. Investigators said that he also sent a text saying, “When your first time having sex was rape.”
But to Troiano, the attack didn't qualify as rape. "I still in my mind...distinguish between a sexual assault and a rape," the judge said, according to court documents. Troiano added that "traditional cases of rape" have "two or more generally males involved, either at gunpoint or weapon, clearly manhandling a person into...an area where...there was nobody around, sometimes in an abandon[ed] house, sometimes in an abandon[ed] shed, shack, and just simply taking advantage of the person as well as beating the person, threatening the person."
New Jersey law defines rape as sexual assault involving "the penetration, no matter how slight, in which physical force or coercion is used or in which the victim is physically or mentally incapacitated." Research also shows that in eight out of 10 cases of sexual violence, the victim knows the perpetrator — they're not a stranger lurking in an alley, like the cases Troiano described as "traditional cases of rape."
The appeals court rebuked Troiano's decision. Now, the case can move from family court to a grand jury, where G.M.C. would be tried as an adult, per New Jersey law, which allows those older than 15 to be tried as adults if accused of a serious crime. It will be up to the grand jury to decide whether to indict G.M.C. on sexual assault charges.