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A Judge Gave An Alleged Rapist Leniency Because He Was From 'A Good Family'

An appellate court has since reversed that decision

A 16-year-old boy allegedly raped a 16-year-old girl at a party in December 2017, filmed that alleged attack, and subsequently shared the video with friends. (His text: "When your first time having sex was a rape.") The victim was reportedly drunk, and unable to consent to any sexual activity; she also had no knowledge of the revenge porn being shared about her until she learned about it weeks later.

On July 30, 2018, New Jersey Judge James Troiano decided that the alleged incident in question wouldn't have qualified as rape and that the alleged assailant was from a "good family" — and, because of this, he ruled that the case ultimately should not be tried in adult court. In New Jersey, minors who are 15 or older can be tried as adults if prosecutors receive a waiver by a judge to move the case from family court to adult court; juvenile justice activists largely advocate against trying minors as adults, not least of all because there is no data to suggest that such legal actions are more rehabilitative or safer for the public than alternative routes.

In his decision, Troiano called the alleged rapist a "young man ... from a good family who put him into an excellent school where he was doing extremely well," none of which negates the claim of rape. He also asserted that the alleged rapist's texts were indicative of "a 16-year-old kid saying stupid crap to his friends" and that the defendant was "clearly a candidate for not just college but probably for a good college." In that same decision, he tried to "distinguish between a sexual assault and a rape," and continued to detail a specific instance of premeditated sexual assault in which "two or more generally males" force a victim into a secluded area and assault them, typically with a weapon. Because the alleged rape he was presiding over happened at a crowded party, he reasoned it wasn't a "traditional case" of rape.

According to RAINN, rape a type of sexual assault and is legally defined as sexual penetration without consent; New Jersey law differentiates between different degrees of sexual assault, but does not use the term "rape" in any of its definitions. New Jersey's consent laws cover whether a victim was mentally or physically incapacitated; consuming alcohol could impact both. Moreover, the Cut points out that only 11 percent of sexual assaults involve weapons, and 80 percent of rapes are committed by perpetrators who knew their victim prior to the assault.

Two New Jersey appellate court judges, Carmen Alvarez and Hany Mawla, eventually overturned Troiano's decision in June 2019, NJ101.5 reports, on the grounds that Troiano's decision on the waiver was grounded in his opinion on the case overall. (The appeal only applies to the case being waived up to adult court, but not a specific decision on the case.) They also admonished him for ostensibly showing a preference towards a privileged defendant. It is now up to Monmouth County prosecutor, Christopher Gramiccioni to present the case to a grand jury; if they decide to indict the alleged rapist, he will be tried in adult court.

Among other reasons, many victims choose not to report if they were sexually assaulted because they often don't believe doing so will actually get anywhere. They also may not think reporting is worth the scrutiny that is often placed upon them for deciding to drink, or what they were wearing, or any other factors that do not excuse or allow for sexual assault because there is no excuse for it.

In 2016, a California judge had ruled that a 20-year-old named Brock Turner should only receive six months in prison for sexually assaulting a 22-year-old woman when he was 19, in part because "a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him," which is to say nothing of the impact he had on the woman he assaulted. Other outlets also reported on the fact that he was a student at Stanford and included times from his swim meets in coverage, details that were largely sympathetic to him and had no bearing on the fact that he decided to assault someone. He ultimately served three months in prison.