This Judge Said Coming from a “Good Family” Means a 16-Year-Old Couldn’t Be a Rapist

Another example of why rape victims have a hard time getting justice.

When a 16-year-old boy appeared in a New Jersey court, the question was whether he would be tried as an adult for having allegedly raped a 16-year-old girl. A New Jersey judge denied the waiver, but his rationale has launched an outpouring of online outrage.

The boy, who was drunk, filmed himself penetrating an intoxicated girl at a party, the New York Times reported Tuesday. He then sent the video to his friends with the caption, “When your first time having sex was rape.”

Judge James Troiano, however, said that the boy’s actions did not constitute a “traditional case of rape,” according to a document from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division. Troiano explained that in the typical case of rape in which children were tried as adults, “There were generally two or more generally males involved, either at gunpoint or weapon, clearly manhandling a person…and just simply taking advantage of the person as well as beating the person, threatening the person.”

But what was most appalling was how Troiano explicitly connected the boy’s good social standing to his decision not to try him in adult court. “This young man comes from a good family who put him into an excellent school where he was doing extremely well,” he said. “He is clearly a candidate for not just college but probably for a good college. His scores for college entry were very high.”

Troiano is not the only judge whose outdated opinions about sexual assault have created controversy. In 2016, Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky issued a six-month jail sentence to Brock Turner, a Stanford University student accused of sexual assault. Persky eventually lost his job as a result.

Some people have noted that the 16-year-old defendant is not legally an adult and should not be charged as such, but the general focus was the judge’s egregious remarks as justification for this decision, especially given the clear evidence of the boy’s actions.

Politicians also weighed in. 

An appeals court rebuked the judge and cleared the way for the boy to appear before a grand jury, which will treat him as an adult and decide whether to indict him for sexual assault, the New York Times reported.


In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones: A special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of the huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.