A New Jersey judge who prompted a national outcry for granting leniency to a teenager accused of sexual assault — specifically, he cited the boy’s “good family” and high test scores — will no longer sit on the bench.
Superior Court Judge James G. Troiano had retired in 2012, but continued working as a “recall” judge to fill vacancies on the bench in Freehold. On Wednesday, the court granted Troiano’s request to end his recall service. A courts spokesperson said the judge wouldn’t comment further.
Also on Wednesday, the state Supreme Court issued an order saying it would begin “formal removal proceedings” for Superior Court Judge John F. Russo Jr., who in 2016 asked an alleged rape victim if she kept her legs closed. The court suspended Russo without pay in the meantime.
And a third New Jersey judge who came under fire for comments she made while hearing a child sexual assault case, Marcia Silva, is the target of a complaint filed by four state senators with the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct.
In a statement Wednesday, New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner announced that he had directed court administration to develop “an enhanced training program” for judges of Municipal, Superior, and Supreme Courts focused on sexual assault, domestic violence, implicit bias, and diversity. A working group of 12 judges from across the state will develop the program.
“Victims asked to relive harrowing experiences are entitled to the utmost sensitivity and respect from law enforcement and the court system,” Rabner wrote. “The state constitution guarantees that right as well. So do basic principles of human decency. Every effort must be made not to revictimize a victim.”
In a statement Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy called the judges’ actions “inexcusable” and said he was satisfied with the “swift action taken by the courts to uphold the reputation of our judiciary.”
Troiano’s comments set off an outcry nationwide, and he faced calls for removal from top state officials. There was also some discussion of impeachment proceedings.
The judge made the comments last year while he was weighing a request to charge as an adult teenager who was accused of sexually assaulting a girl and filming it. According to the Appellate Division, which overturned his ruling to keep the boy in the juvenile system, the judge had expressed concern that prosecutors had not explained to the accuser and her mother the effect that moving the boy to adult court would have on his life.
“This young man comes from a good family, who put him into an excellent school where he was doing extremely well,” Troiano said, according to the appellate opinion. “He is clearly a candidate for not just college, but probably for a good college. His scores for college entry were very high.” The judge also detailed the boy’s extracurricular activities, including noting that he was an Eagle Scout.
Troiano also differentiated the alleged assault from a “traditional case of rape,” which he described as “generally two or more” males using a weapon and “clearly manhandling a person” into an “abandoned” area.
Investigators said the teen filmed the alleged rape, sent it to others, and texted friends in the days following the incident, using the words: “When your first time having sex was rape.” The girl was described by prosecutors as visibly intoxicated and “was on the floor vomiting” after the incident. The next morning, she found bruises on her body and her clothing was torn, prompting a report to police.
The teenager accused of sexual assault in this case has not been publicly named. Monmouth County prosecutors are presenting the case to a grand jury and aim to charge him as an adult.
Russo had been working in the Civil Division in Mount Holly, according to the Asbury Park Press. Troiano and Silva had been working in family court. She was on the bench in Middlesex County.