It is no secret that in the United States’ criminal justice system, poor defendants are less likely to receive leniency than affluent defendants. And a family court judge has been rebuked by an appeals court for saying that a New Jersey teenager being accused of rape deserves leniency because he “comes from a good family who put him into an excellent school” and is “clearly a candidate” for “a good college.”
Prosecutors in New Jersey have requested that the youth, identified as “G.M.C.” in court documents, be tried as an adult for the alleged rape of a 16-year-old identified by the alias “Mary” (not her real name). After raping “Mary” at a party in that state, prosecutors allege, the teenager (who was also 16 at the time) sent a cell phone video of the attack to friends and sent a text saying, “When your first time having sex was rape.”
In 2018, Judge James Troiano denied a motion to try “G.M.C.” as an adult, asserting that prosecutors should have explained to “Mary” that pressing charges against the teenager would destroy his life. The youth, Troiano asserted, “comes from a good family who put him into an excellent school where he was doing extremely well” and is “clearly a candidate for not just college, but probably, for a good college. His scores for college entry were very high.”
The appeals court, in a 14-page ruling, is vehemently critical of Troiano for showing bias in favor of “G.M.C.” because of his class privilege. And this appeals court rebuke, the New York Times is reporting, clears the way for the case to be moved from family court to a grand jury that would treat “G.M.C.” like an adult.
In its decision, the appellate court wrote that by referencing the alleged assailant’s “good family” and “good test scores,” Troiano is, in essence, saying that juveniles who “do not come from good families and do not have good test scores” should be treated with less leniency in the courts.
Under New Jersey state law, juveniles as young as 15 can be tried as adults if accused of serious crimes — rape being one of them. And a grand jury, the Times reports, will decide whether or not to indict “G.M.C.” for sexual assault.