A 16-year-old boy who recorded himself raping a visibly intoxicated girl, 16, in a basement during a house party in New Jersey was given leniency due to his "good family" - and now, the judge behind this decision has been admonished by an appeals court.
"[W]hen your first time having sex was rape" was the text message that accompanied the video of the assault as it was circulated amongst the defendant's friends.
The accused filmed himself having sex with the victim, whose "speech was slurred" and "stumbled as she walked", while her head was hanging and her bare torso was exposed.
Family court judge, James Troiano, cited the boy's "good family", "excellent school" and "very high" test scores as reasons why the rapist deserved leniency.
In July last year, Judge Troiano denied a request by the prosecutor's office to try the teen in adult criminal court. He expressed concern over the "devastating effect" adult court would have on his life, citing the boy's candidacy for a good college and academic success.
The judge claimed the act did not qualify as a "traditional" rape, as it did not involve two or more men holding a victim at gunpoint, reports the New York Times. He questioned the victim's level of intoxication and dismissed the text as a "kid saying stupid crap."
Appeals court ruling
Now, a 14-page ruling by an appeals court has strongly criticised Judge Troiano, warning about the demonstration of bias towards privileged teenagers, reports the New York Times.
According to the ruling, if the boy (identified as G.M.C.) had been tried as an adult, he would have faced charges including first-degree aggravated sexual assault, second-degree sexual assaut, two charges of third-degree invasion of privacy for filming and disclosure of images and third-degree endangering the welfare of a child.
The court document outlines other disturbing details prior to the rape. A group of boys at the party sprayed the victim's bottom with Febreze and slapped it with such force that handprints were visible the next day.
Mary (an alias given to the victim) vomited violently after the rape, and found a number of bruises and tears in her clothing the next day.
"The lights remained off and the door was barred by a foosball table," the prosecutor wrote.
"G.M.C.'s behaviour was calculated and cruel."
The appeals panel said "the judge decided the case for himself", making his own analysis of the boy's accountability based on academic success, family and extracurricular activities.
Through the ruling, the state appeals court has facilitated a path for the case to be moved from family court to a grand jury. Before the grand jury, the accused will be tried as an adult.
"This is conduct that should be punished in adult court," Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni told the Times.
"We subscribe to the idea that the juvenile system is supposed to be rehabilitative.
"But when you're dealing with charges as serious as these, it's a whole different ball of wax."