A judge in New Jersey would not permit a teenage boy who allegedly filmed himself raping a girl at a party to be tried in adult court because the judge said the boy came from a “good family” and would likely attend a top college.
The New York Times reported of Judge James Troiano, “He also said the young man came from a good family, attended an excellent school, had terrific grades and was an Eagle scout. Prosecutors, the judge said, should have explained to the girl and her family that pressing charges would destroy the boy’s life.” Troiano added, “He is clearly a candidate for not just college but probably for a good college.”
But an appeals court overturned the ruling, slamming the judge for his bias. The appeals court’s decision recounted the incident:
The charges arose from an encounter at a social event between G.M.C. and the victim, whom for the sake of anonymity, we will refer to as Mary. She too was sixteen. Along with approximately thirty adolescents, they attended a pajama-themed party where alcohol was consumed. Parts of the basement where the party took place were blocked off. After engaging in “heavy petting,” as described by the judge, G.M.C. and Mary walked into a closed off darkened area. G.M.C., who had no prior delinquency history, was drunk. Mary was also visibly drunk, her speech was slurred, and she stumbled as she walked.
While on the sofa, a group of boys sprayed Febreze on Mary’s bottom and slapped it with such force that the following day she had hand marks on her buttocks. Mary and G.M.C. had intercourse in the darkened room. G.M.C. filmed himself penetrating Mary from behind on his cell phone, displaying her bare torso, and her head hanging down. He forwarded the clip to several friends; only one said it showed Mary’s head hitting repeatedly against the wall. In the days following the incident, G.M.C. sent the following text to his friends: “[w]hen your first time having sex was rape.”
The appeals court wrote, “[G.M.C.’s] conduct as it relates to the charged offenses was both sophisticated and predatory.” They added, “Filming a cell phone video while committing the assault was a deliberate act of debasement. And, in the months that followed, he lied to [Mary] 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.”
The appeals court criticized Troiano, writing, “Rather than focusing on whether the prosecutor’s consideration of the statutory factors supported the application, the judge decided the case for himself.” The court added,”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 applications.”