A New Jersey family court judge is coming under fire for extending leniency to a 16-year-old alleged rapist who is accused of videotaping himself sexually assaulting an intoxicated girl at a basement party in 2017 before sharing the footage with friends along with the boast that his “first time having sex was rape.”
A decision rendered nearly a year ago by Judge James Troiano — denying a request from prosecutors that the accused teen be tried as an adult — has recently come to light, now that a state appeals court has overturned it.
PEOPLE obtained the appeals court’s June 14 ruling, which contends Troiano essentially decided the case against the teen before the exact charges were even filed.
In making his decision last summer, Troiano noted the accused “juvenile came from a good family and had good test scores.”
The appeals court ruling further questions how such legal reasoning would impact “juveniles who do not come from good families and do not have good test scores” who appeared in Troiano’s court.
On July 30, 2018, Troiano denied the state’s motion to have the accused — identified in court filings by his initials “G.M.C.” — tried as an adult for first-degree aggravated sexual assault, second-degree sexual assault, third-degree endangering the welfare of a child and two counts of third-degree invasion of privacy.
Instead, Troiano, who is 69, shot down the request, citing the teen’s status as an Eagle scout who “was doing extremely well” in high school and “is clearly a candidate for not just college but probably for a good college. His scores for college entry were very high.”
The victim, also 16, was inebriated during the incident, which allegedly occurred in a darkened area of the basement.
According to prosecutors, the accused filmed the alleged attack with his phone, and in the footage, the girl’s bare torso was visible, and her head could be seen “hanging down.” One of the accused’s friends, who was sent the clip, said the footage “showed [the victim’s] head hitting repeatedly against the wall.”
Investigators found text-message evidence from the days that followed the assault. In messages to his friends, the accused teen wrote of the encounter, “[W]hen your first time having sex was rape.”
The victim discovered bruises about her body the next morning, and expressed her fears she had been raped to her mother.
“Over the course of several months, [the victim] learned that G.M.C.’s video had been circulated among his friends and their mutual acquaintances, and she attempted to communicate with him about it,” reads the appeals court decision. “She repeatedly told G.M.C. that she was more interested in putting the episode behind her than anything else. G.M.C. denied having recorded the encounter and said that their friends were lying.”
The girl’s mother called police after discovering the footage was still being shared amongst her daughter’s peers.
The appeals court decision quotes Troiano from court transcripts. From the bench, he referred to the teen accuser as “the alleged victim” and noted that, unlike in this case, most rapes “generally involve” a weapon.
Troiano, who is now retired, also doubted the victim’s claims that she was too intoxicated to consent.
“Some people would argue that, you know, really what did…she drink and how could she possibly have gotten as drunk as she says she was,” Troiano said. “I think it’s an issue here, whether or not this young lady was intoxicated to the point that she didn’t understand what was going on.”
Troiano, the appeals court decision states, also brought up the accused’s texts to his friends, and how his description of the encounter changed from “raped” to “f—–.”
Troiano also “expressed concern that the prosecutor did not indicate…that she had explained to [the victim] and her mother the devastating effect” adult criminal charges would have had on the accused’s life.
The appeals court determined the prosecution’s request for adult charges was valid, and chided Troiano for his ruling.
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“Rather than focusing on whether the prosecutor’s consideration of the statutory factors supported the application, the judge decided the case for himself,” the appeal court decision said.
Calls to Troiano’s cell phone went unanswered Wednesday.
Mitchell Ansell, the attorney for the accused, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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