A New Jersey judge wanted to give a 16-year-old boy accused of raping an intoxicated girl another chance, claiming he came from “a good family” and his test scores were too high for him to be tried in court as an adult. Plus the judge didn’t actually think it was rape — even though the defendant himself had called it that, in writing, in the video of the 2017 assault that he shared with his friends: “When your first time having sex was rape,” he captioned it.
The judge's statements sparked a backlash, and an appeals court reversed his decision.
Monmouth County prosecutors arguing the case last year wanted the teenage boy, identified only by the initials G.M.C., to be tried in adult court, calling his alleged assault too “sophisticated and predatory” for him to be tried as a juvenile. They said his behavior was “neither a childish misinterpretation of the situation nor was it a misunderstanding,” and what he did was “calculated and cruel.”
But Judge James Troiano, 70, of New Jersey Superior Court, disagreed. He ruled in July 2018 against the prosecutors’ recommendations to try the alleged teen rapist as an adult because he didn’t think the assault qualifies as rape. The boy was an Eagle Scout and “comes from a good family who put him in an excellent school where he was doing extremely well,” Troiano wrote in his decision arguing against trying the boy as an adult.
At a pajama-themed party filled with intoxicated kids in 2017, G.M.C. allegedly sexually assaulted a girl referred to as “Mary” on a basement sofa. In the video, he is seen penetrating his victim from behind with her stomach exposed and head hanging low, according to prosecutors. And he shared the cellphone recording with at least seven other teens in the days after the assault, investigators said.
According to prosecutors, Mary was visibly drunk around the time of the rape, saying her speech was slurred and she could barely walk. Her head also hit the wall repeatedly, according to one friend who received the video, and there was a foosball table blocking the door to the basement. Mary left the party with bruise marks and torn clothing and feared she'd been assaulted, though she couldn’t quite remember.
After learning G.M.C. was spreading the video of the deliberate assault, Mary asked him to stop. When he didn’t, her family moved forward with pressing charges.
Christopher J. Gramiccioni, the County prosecutor, told the New York Times that the boy’s conduct warrant him being tried in adult court. “We subscribe to the idea that the juvenile system is supposed to be rehabilitative,” he said. “But when you’re dealing with charges as serious as these, it’s a whole different ball of wax.”
Prosecuting teens as adults isn’t unheard-of when they’re accused of the most heinous crimes. New Jersey’s juvenile waiver law lets defendants who are at least 15 years old to be tried as adults.
But according to Judge Troiano, prosecutors should have warned the girl that pressing charges would damage the boy’s future. His defense of G.M.C. sparked a backlash and a rebuke from an appeals court panel warning the judge against ruling in favor of entitled teens.
The teenage defendant will now be tried before a grand jury, facing potential indictment for sexual assault.
Cove: A Chinese judge uses a gavel to strike the pad during a trial at the Yunyang People's Court in Yunyang county, Chongqing, China, 29 October 2015.(Imaginechina via AP Images)