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NJ Judge Says Teen Accused of Rape Deserves Leniency Because He Comes From a “Good Family”

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  • Prosecutors filed a waiver for a 16-year-old to be tried as an adult after he sexually assaulted a girl, filmed it, and sent it to his friends. 
  • A judge denied the waiver because he says the teen came from a “good family” and did well on college tests. 
  • An appellate court overturned the ruling, but many were upset with remarks the judge made.
  • Many were particularly upset with the judge questioning whether or not the victim was really unaware of what was going on, and saying that she should take into account how this case would impact the boy’s life.

16-Year-Old Accused of Sexual Assault

Court documents show that a New Jersey family court judge brought up a 16-year-old boy’s “good family” and high test scores in a case accusing the teen of sexual assault. 

Judge James Troiano denied a waiver in 2018 that would allow the teen, who court documents refer to as “G.M.C.” to be tried as an adult. His decision was overturned by an appellate court, whose ruling was made public in June. 

According to court documents, in 2017, G.M.C. attended a party along with close to 30 others. Areas of the basement where the party was held were blocked off, and G.M.C. took a 16-year-old girl referred to as Mary to one of those sections. The documents said that the two had been drinking, and Mary was visibly drunk, slurring her words, and stumbling. 

“A group of boys sprayed Febreze on Mary’s bottom and slapped it with such force that the following day she had hand marks on her buttocks,” the court document said. 

“Mary and G.M.C. had intercourse in the darkened room,” the document continued. “G.M.C. filmed himself penetrating Mary from behind on his cell phone, displaying her bare torso, and her head hanging down. He forwarded the clip to several friends.”

G.M.C. also sent a text to his friends that read, “[w]hen your first time having sex was rape.”

After the incident, Mary was on the floor vomiting, and G.M.C.’s friends told Mary’s friends that she was ill and should be checked on. The next morning, Mary noticed the markings on her body and that her clothes had been torn. She told her mother she was afraid something had happened to her. 

Over the next couple of months, she learned that G.M.C. had recorded the incident and tried to communicate with him so she could put the situation in her past. However, G.M.C. denied that such a video existed. 

Mary’s mother contacted authorities and investigators told G.M.C. and his friends to delete the video, which they did. Mary and her family then pursued charges.

A prosecutor said there was probable cause to charge G.M.C. with aggravated sexual assault, invasion of privacy and endangering the welfare of a child. They also sought to elevate the charges to adult criminal court. 

“[G.M.C.’s] conduct as it relates to the charged offenses was both sophisticated and predatory,” the prosecutor wrote in a waiver. “Filming a cell phone video while committing the assault was a deliberate act of debasement. And, in the months that followed, he lied to [Mary] while simultaneously disseminating the video and unabashedly sharing the nature of his conduct therein. This was neither a childish misinterpretation of the situation, nor was it a misunderstanding.[G.M.C.’s] behavior was calculated and cruel.”

Judge Troiano’s Statements

Judge Troiano issued a denying waiver. He said he did not think this was a “traditional case of rape.” When describing a traditional case he gave the example of “two or more generally males involved, either at gunpoint or weapon, clearly manhandling a person.”

Judge Troiano also said he found it unclear if Mary was really so drunk that she was unaware of what was going on. He later described the text message G.M.C sent as “just a 16-year-old kid saying stupid crap to his friends.”

“[T]his young man comes from a good family who put him into an excellent school where he was doing extremely well,” he later said, before citing that G.M.C. was also involved with Eagle Scouts. “He is clearly a candidate for not just college but probably for a good college. His scores for college entry were very high.”

Judge Troiano later added that Mary and her family need to consider what effects this would have on G.M.C.’s life. 

The June appeal that overturned his decision allows for G.M.C. to be tried as an adult and moves the case out of family court. The appeal criticized the way Judge Troiano assessed the case saying it “sounded as if he had conducted a bench trial on the charges rather than neutrally reviewed the State’s application.”

“That the juvenile came from a good family and had good test scores we assume would not condemn the juveniles who do not come from good families and do not have good test scores from withstanding waiver applications,” the appeal added.

Reactions to Case

Once major outlets like the New York Times picked the story up, many were upset with the comments Judge Troiano had made regarding the case. Many criticized him for favoring a young man for the privilege he came from.

Others pointed out that Judge Troiano has been retired for several years, and according to the Times, is 70 years old. While in retirement, he has been asked to fill vacancies.

He is also not the only judge in New Jersey family courts that has been criticized for the way they handled sexual assault cases. In a very similar case, Judge Marcia Silva denied charging a 16-year-old boy accused of assaulting a 12-year-old girl as an adult.

She said that the “offense is not an especially heinous or cruel offense.”

“Beyond losing her virginity, the State did not claim that the victim suffered any further injuries, either physical, mental or emotional,” Judge Silva wrote

In this case, as well, the appellate court was able to overturn her decision. Many expressed frustrations with her actions. 

See what others are saying (New York Times) (The Hill) (NJ.com)

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Video of Man Punching Woman’s Reclined Airplane Seat Sparks Debate

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  • When a woman on an American Airlines flight reclined her seat, the man behind her responded by repeatedly punching the back of it. 
  • After a flight attendant was called to help, she allegedly sided with the man and offered him a free cocktail. 
  • The woman, Wendi Williams, took to social media to share her side of the story and express her frustration. The video she posted of the incident has since gone viral. 
  • Some have admonished Williams for reclining her seat in such tight quarters, while others have publicly condemned the man for his behavior.

Tensions Rise in the Sky

An airplane passenger went public with her story of a man punching the back of her seat when she reclined it during a flight, and the Internet has had a lot to say on the matter. 

Wendi Williams took an American Airlines plane from New Orleans to Charlotte, North Carolina on Jan. 31 — a flight that lasts around two hours. The man behind her couldn’t recline his own seat, as he was sitting in the last row of the plane. Williams said he asked her to put her seat up because he was eating, which she says she did. Then when he was finished she reclined it again. That’s when the trouble started — the man responded by hitting the back of William’s seat.

Williams began recording the punches and even called a flight attendant for help, but the employee allegedly brushed her off. Instead of reprimanding the man in the last row, Williams claimed the flight attendant offered him a cocktail and told Williams to delete the footage. 

“She rolled her eyes at me and said, ‘What?’” Williams tweeted. “She then told him it was tight back there and gave him rum!”

Williams has been posting about the incident to her Twitter page over the last week, calling the man’s actions an “assault.” She said that prior to the start of her video, in behavior not caught on camera, the man’s aggression was worse.

American Airlines responded to Williams directly on Twitter, asking her to direct message them with her contact information. Williams replied that she had reached out to them multiple times. Several hours later, she reported on Twitter that she had talked to an American Air representative but felt as if an adequate apology wasn’t given for their flight attendant’s actions. Williams threatened to “press charges” in the wake of her dissatisfaction.

In a statement, American Airlines said it was looking into what happened.

“The safety and comfort of our customers and team members is our top priority,” the airline said.  

Williams also said that the man’s punches have caused her physical pain, and revealed that she has pre-existing back issues. She wrote that since the plane ordeal, she has “lost time at work, had to visit a doctor, got x-rays, and have [had] horrible headaches for a week.”

Online Reactions

The debacle caught widespread attention and the video of part of the incident went viral, bringing in many mixed reactions.

After it was revealed that Williams was sitting in coach, some thought she shouldn’t have reclined her seat with such little room.

“Wendi….it seems you started this in the first place by reclining your seat too far…” one person wrote. “Just don’t recline. And the middle seat gets both armrests. Basic etiquette.”

While some did admonish the man for punching Williams, they still thought she was in wrong as well for reclining her seat.

“I’m calling a double technical,” one Twitter user wrote. “Don’t recline. Especially into the poor sap in the last row of the plane which doesn’t recline AND is adjacent to the lav. But, also… don’t punch someone’s seat, dude.”

Others defended the woman, arguing that she has a right to recline her seat, especially because it was designed with that feature. There was also widespread criticism of the man for taking the approach that he did.

And some Twitter users even pointed to the gender dynamic, arguing the situation was extra problematic because it was a man punching the seat of a woman and a power imbalance.

See what others are saying: (NBC) (Fox News) (KRQE Media)

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Chicago High Schoolers Stage Sit-In After Teacher Allegedly Tells Student ‘Go Back to Your Country’

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  • When a Latina student at Senn High School in Chicago refused to stand during the national anthem, her teacher allegedly said, “go back to your country.”
  • Students complained to the principal but felt there wasn’t enough being done, so they staged a sit-in on Wednesday to protest the lack of action and call for the removal of the teacher.
  • Chicago Public Schools said they are investigating the teacher’s alleged comments and support students who are peacefully raising concerns.
  • The teacher was removed from the school pending the investigation.

Claims of Racism 

Chicago high school students held a sit-in on Wednesday after a teacher allegedly told a Latina student “go back to your country” when she refused to stand for the national anthem last month. 

When Senn High School held a Hispanic heritage assembly on Jan. 30, 17-year-old Yésica Salazar and several other senior students remained seated for the national anthem. It was an act of silent protest against police brutality, U.S. immigration policies, and anti-immigrant rhetoric. 

According to the students, two teachers approached them and asked one if she was eligible for free or reduced lunch. When she responded that she was, the teacher told her that she should stand because people had died for this country. The student left the auditorium.

The teacher then turned to Salazar, asking her if her legs were broken. She told him no and started to explain her reasons for sitting.

“Before I could finish my sentence, he responds back with the famous line: ‘Go back to your country.'” Salazar told NBC News

Salazar, who is a U.S. citizen, was hurt by the remark.

“I felt very offended because my parents have fought hard to be a part of this country,” Salazar told The Chicago Sun-Times.

Sit-In Protest

The group of seniors complained about the incident to their principal, Mary Beck, but felt like the school’s response had been too slow. They held Wednesday’s sit-in, along with other students, to protest the lack of action and call for the removal of the teacher. 

In several videos that have circulated on social media, students can be heard chanting, “we want justice, we want peace.”

Another video shows Beck addressing the students.

“I notified CPS. I notified everybody within three hours of receiving the report. It is all in writing, it is all time-stamped,” she said. “I did my job. I continue to follow through based on the guidelines and policies that we have in place.

She is then interrupted as students start yelling, “So why is he still here?” referring to the teacher. Beck also receives some boos from the crowd.

This was not the only drama that unfolded during the sit-in. Chicago police reported that a 15-year-old student was arrested during the demonstration. She and another student began fighting, police said, and when a 55-year-old staff member tried to break it up, she pushed him to the ground. 

Chicago Public Schools said they have launched an investigation into the teacher’s alleged national anthem comments, and spokesperson James Gherardi said they support students who are peacefully voiced their concern. 

“CPS is committed to fostering learning environments that embrace and support all students, and the alleged actions of the teacher in question run counter to our beliefs and priorities as a school district,” Gherardi said.

According to Block Club Chicago, the teacher was removed from the school pending the investigation.

See what others are saying: (Newsweek) (Time) (Chicago Sun-Times

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Should Freedom of Religion Protect Humanitarians Giving Food & Water to Migrants At The Border?

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The U.S. federal government said that Humanitarians from the religious immigration reform group No More Deaths broke the law when they trespassed on a wildlife reserve to leave water for migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Eventually, nearly all charges were reversed due to the religious freedom restoration act. The law says that even in circumstances where a law doesn’t mention religion, it can still violate peoples’ religious liberties, which was the case for No More Deaths. Check out this week’s video to learn more about who ruled in favor of the humanitarians and why their religious liberties were being violated according to one judge’s ruling.  

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