New Jersey’s high court took action Wednesday against two judges who have faced criticism over their comments in cases involving sexual assault.
New Jersey’s Supreme Court recommended that state Superior Court Judge John Russo Jr . be removed from the bench. Russo asked a woman during a 2016 hearing if she could have closed her legs to prevent a sexual assault, and joked about the exchange later with court personnel.
Also Wednesday, the court terminated the temporary assignment of a judge who declined to order a 16-year-old rape suspect tried in adult court because the youth came “from a good family.”
State Superior Court Judge James Troiano asked whether the suspect should face serious consequences over a video-recorded assault on an intoxicated teenager. Troiano is retired but had been recalled to serve in Monmouth County.
The Troiano case and another involving a judge who also declined to waive a 16-year-old’s sexual assault case to adult court prompted strong criticism in recent weeks after the comments came to light. Both decisions were reversed by appeals courts.
Numerous public officials called for Troiano and state Superior Court Judge Marcia Silva to be removed from the bench. Silva called an alleged sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl by a 16-year-old “not an especially heinous or cruel offense.”
Prosecutors said the boy took cellphone video of the alleged rape in the basement at a pajama party and sent the video to friends with a text message reading “when your first time having sex was rape.”
New Jersey law allows a juvenile to be tried as an adult if they’re accused of a serious crime. But Troiano said a traditional case of rape generally involves “two or more males using a weapon,” sometimes in an abandoned “shed” or “shack,” circumstances not matching the teen’s alleged crime.
“It should never matter what a defendants background is it should not matter if he is rich or poor, if he is black, white, brown or yellow. The judge only looked at the boys background and did not regard anything he did as particularly serious of sexual assault or even rape,” CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman said.
According to the court’s order, the termination of Troiano’s assignment was by his own request.
According to an appeals court decision last month, Troiano wrote that the “young man comes from a good family who put him into an excellent school where he was doing extremely well. … He is clearly a candidate for not just college but probably for a good college. His scores for college entry were very high.”
In the Russo case, the Supreme Court is seeking a harsher punishment than one recommended earlier this year by a judicial ethics commission that suggested a three-month unpaid suspension – though some members pushed for six months.