Calls grow louder for removal of judges over handling of rape cases

Protesters rallied on the lawn of Monmouth County’s courthouse and called for the removal of family court Judges James Troiano and Marcia Silva over comments they made in two alleged rape cases that critics charge valued the alleged teen rapists over their young victims.

“Reading your words turned my stomach. Your blatant disregard for the victim and your indifference toward her pain is shocking. Your only concern seems to be for the rapist,” said Indra Kanthan with the Manavi South Asian Women’s Organization.

“These are not rare incidences. This is the sick norm and there’s a lot of work to be done if we want to change this,” said protest organizer Nancy Love.

Neither Troiano nor Silva have commented. In two separate cases, they denied prosecutors’ motions to try the accused as adults. Troiano remarked, “This young man comes from a good family […] He is clearly a candidate for not just college but probably for a good college,” after the teen allegedly videotaped himself raping a visibly drunk 16-year-old. Of a 12-year-old survivor, Silva noted, “[…] beyond losing her virginity, the state did not claim the victim suffered any further injuries, either physical, mental or emotional.”

Appellate judges overturned their decisions and sharply criticized their colleagues, as did advocates.

“A rapist who is an Eagle Scout is still a rapist. A rapist bragging about rape is not a ‘boy saying stupid crap to his friends.’ Intoxication does not justify rape,” said sexual assault survivor Christine Clark, who spoke at the protest.

“Very few survivors of sexual assault are accessing the criminal justice system. And when they do it’s imperative that those responsible for hearing their cases understand the unique trauma associated with sexual assault victimization. To that end, NJ CASA joins the members of the Legislature who’ve introduced long-overdue legislation to mandate sexual violence training requirements for judges,” said Patricia Teffenhart, executive director of New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Sen. Loretta Weinberg’s led a growing chorus of condemnation, joined by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, who on Thursday called the judges’ comments “ […] alarming and indefensible. […] While I have full faith and confidence that the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct will review these matters with the urgency and gravity such conduct requires, I believe that the judicial system is better served by the resignation or the immediate removal of Judge Silva and Judge Troiano.”

Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday declined to go that far.

“I support an investigation by the appropriate judicial watchdog committee that exists and I would hope they’d pursue that investigation post haste, because those comments are unacceptable,” Murphy said.

Republican Sen. Kristin Corrado wants the judges removed, and she’s sponsoring a bill to require all judges receive annual training.

“There’s multiple incidents of judges saying things that are just so inappropriate, and wrong, and disgusting, and shaming the victims and the survivors, so let’s put training in place. Let’s make them aware that their words have consequences, and let’s start doing it now,” Corrado said.

“My team is exploring legislation right now, where if a judge ever says something that makes an excuse for a rapist, that needs to be flagged immediately,” said Sen. Vin Gopal. “I think there needs to be a better system of checks and balances, as far as removing judges, without a doubt. These individuals are supposed to be the best of the best. There are supposed to be no errors. There should never be a comment, ‘Well, why didn’t you close your legs?'”

With both Sweeney and Coughlin calling for the removal of the two judges, Corrado’s bill will probably get fast-tracked for consideration. But that’ll have to wait, probably, until after the fall election when the Legislature reconvenes.