It may seem like something from a bad thriller movie. Still, New Jersey Superior Court Judge John Russo Jr. asked an alleged rape victim various humiliating questions. Including the one about crossing her legs.
Back in 2016, an alleged rape victim asked for a restraining order against her attacker. Instead, she got a bit more than she bargained for.
The original comments by the Judge
After a woman shared details of the traumatizing assault, a transcript of the hearing reveals Russo's examination:
"Do you know how to stop somebody from having intercourse with you?" Judge Russo asked the woman during a hearing.
"Yes," the alleged victim replied.
"How would you do that?" the Judge continued.
The woman said she would try to physically harm the attacker and say "no." Judge Russo then asked, "What else?"
The woman said she would ask the person to stop, to which Judge Russo again asked, "What else?"
She then said she would try to run away.
"Run away, get away," he said. "Anything else?"
"Block your body parts?" Judge Russo added. "Close your legs? Call the police? Did you do any of those things?"
His comments didn't stop during the trial. Afterward, he made several jokes to his coworkers, who weren't thrilled, and Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said this was "just as problematic."
Three years later, in 2019, John Russo Jr. was removed from the bench. But not before his lawyer Amelia Carolla, told the justices that Russo has "learned his lesson." She added that he "will not do this again." And of course, that he was "remorseful," too.
If you're looking for the right word to describe this situation, sleazy comes to mind.
Not the Judge's first rodeo
Prior to making such dreadful comments to an alleged rape victim, Judge Russo had a series of remarks in other cases.
He threatened a woman in a paternity case with financial penalties and a loss of credibility with the court when she told him she was afraid to give her address.
"We're all going to find you," Judge Russo said in a crowded courtroom, according to the court documents.
The other time he managed to reduce the unpaid child support debt from 10.000 to 3.000 USD because the accused was his buddy.
The 2020 verdict finally caught up with the Judge
A New Jersey Superior Court judge has been ordered removed from the bench by the state's highest court. It was concluded that his behavior made it "inconceivable" that he could ever handle domestic violence or sexual assault cases.
The decision was made over four years after his comments.
According to the official statement by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner:
No witness, alleged victim, or litigant should be treated that way in a court of law.
Though the whole process was humiliating, and there's no way to say how many judges act in the same manner, let this be a precautionary tale to all of them.
No one truly wants to see the inside of the courtroom, and alleged victims are not the ones on trial. The judges should not make the complicated process harder. Furthermore, if you have ever wondered why victims fail to report abuse, this might be one of the answers.
Being assaulted and then harassed by the system that's supposed to protect you is shameful. It's also hurtful, and it gives justice a bad name.