The New Jersey judge who urged leniency for a teenage boy accused of sexual assault because the boy came from a “good family” has faced death threats in recent days as fierce public backlash mounts.
Officials are calling for his resignation, petitions are circulating that demand he be disbarred, a protest has been scheduled for later this week and threats of violence are pouring in — including the threat of rape, according to people who have spoken to the judge, James Troiano.
Judge Troiano’s comments led to a nationwide outcry and were seen as proof that the legal system had different rules for the privileged. The case has quickly eclipsed the judge’s nearly three-decade career on the bench.
The decision concerned a 2017 case in which prosecutors said a visibly intoxicated 16-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by a drunken 16-year-old boy who recorded the act, and sent the video to his friends, along with a text that said, “When your first time is rape.”
Judge Troiano, 69, cited the boy’s good grades and potential to attend a good college when he denied prosecutors’ request that the boy be charged as an adult.
Family Court proceedings are typically closed to the public, but some of Judge Troiano’s comments, taken from a 65-page transcript of his sealed decision, were revealed when an appeals court decision was made public.
The appellate court issued a detailed 14-page ruling that warned Judge Troiano against showing bias toward privileged teenagers. In overturning the judge’s decision, the appellate court also effectively ruled that the teenager could be tried as an adult; the case, however, would first need to be presented to a grand jury to weigh whether to indict him on the sexual assault accusation.
As the calls to resign have rolled in, Judge Troiano and his family, including his wife of 40 years, Debbie, and his son, Matthew James Troiano, a former prosecutor in Morris County, have received threatening phone calls and emails from strangers.
“The whole country, including your fellow judges and judges superior to you, are telling you that you’re a bigot and a detriment to this country,” read one email, shared with The New York Times, that included the hope that a family member be raped, “by a man stronger than you.”
Supporters claim statement about ‘good family’ was taken out of context
In the controversy that has surrounded the decision, some legal analysts say nuance has been lost: In the ruling, Judge Troiano was not necessarily arguing that the 16-year-old be excused, they said. He was making a decision about which court should conduct the trial; Judge Troiano favored prosecuting the teenager as a juvenile in family court, not as an adult, they said.
In New Jersey, when determining the most appropriate court for a sex charge involving someone under 18, personal factors, including whether the juvenile is likely to be a delinquent, are required, by statute, to be considered.
“Family background is directly in issue, as any psychologist will confirm,” James H. Maynard, an attorney who specializes in sex offense law, said in an email to the New York Times. “Because the family context, support and participation are relevant, and important, in juvenile sex-offender treatment.”
Through his son, Matthew, who is a criminal attorney, Judge Troiano declined to comment. A court spokeswoman declined to comment on whether Judge Troiano was under any sort of review.
The case marked a turn in a long career in public service that included holding elected office and spending 29 years as a family court judge.
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Contributed by Sean Walton of The Daily Sheeple.