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NJ judge slammed for showing leniency to teen sex assault suspect from 'good family'

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AlessandroPhoto/iStock(NEW YORK) — A New Jersey judge is under fire after he rejected a request from prosecutors to charge a 16-year-old suspect in an alleged sexual assault as an adult, writing in a controversial ruling that the teen “comes from a good family” and is a candidate for a “good college.”

The Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division overturned the decision of Judge James Troiano, writing in a 14-page opinion obtained by ABC News that Troiano overstepped his authority by making “an independent assessment of the juvenile’s culpability.”

Monmouth County prosecutors had argued for a waiver to send the case to adult court, saying the teen’s alleged “behavior was calculated and cruel.” Prosecutors also alleged the boy made a cell phone video of the attack that allegedly occurred at a house party in 2017, and sent it to friends along with a text message, reading, “when your first time having sex was rape.”

“Rather than focusing on whether the prosecutor’s consideration of the statutory factors supported the application, the judge decided the case for himself,” the two appellate judges wrote in their June 14 opinion, which was first reported by the New York Times.

The appellate judges admonished Troiano for showing leniency to the juvenile by focusing on the youth’s family background, that he was an Eagle Scout and that, according to Triano decision, “his scores for college entry were very high.”

“That the juvenile comes 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 appellate judges wrote in their decision. “Whether or not the State can prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt is a question best left to another day.”

A juvenile complaint was lodged in 2017 against the teenage suspect, who was only identified in court papers as “G.M.C.,” alleging he sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl who was “visibly intoxicated, physically helpless and unable to provide consent.”

The alleged attack occurred at a pajama-themed house party in Monmouth County, attended by about 30 young people, according to court records.

The suspect allegedly led the victim, who was identified only by the pseudonym “Mary” in the appellate court opinion, to a darkened basement gym, where the door was barred by a foosball table, according to a prosecution statement in the appellate decision.

“G.M.C. filmed himself penetrating Mary from behind on his cellphone, displaying her bare torso, and her head hanging down. He forwarded the clip to several friends,” according to the court papers.

The alleged victim became sick and vomited after the attack, and she was driven home by a friend’s mother, according to the court records.

The next morning, the alleged victim noticed bruise marks on her body and that her clothing was torn, according to the appellate court opinion. She told her mother that she feared “sexual things had happened at the party,” according to the appellate court decision.

Several months later, the victim learned the suspect had circulated the video of the attack to his friends, according to the records. But when she confronted the suspect about it, he denied that he recorded the attack on video.

The victim and her mother then contacted police, who launched an investigation.

“Unfortunately, after securing clearance from his sergeant, the first investigating officer urged G.M.C. and his friends to all delete the video, which apparently they did,” according to the appellate decision.

Judge Troiano had retired several years ago but was brought back to hear certain family court cases.

When prosecutors asked him to approve the waiver to charge the suspect as an adult, Troiano expressed skepticism that the alleged attack was rape, saying traditional rape cases generally occur “either at gunpoint or weapon” and involve “two or more males,” according to the appellate opinion.

During the hearing in which prosecutors asked that the case be transferred to adult court, Troiano commented on the suspect’s background while expressing concern that prosecutors did not explain to the alleged victim and her mother “the devastating effect” it would have on the suspect’s life if he were tried as an adult, according to the appellate opinion.

“This young man comes from a good family who put him into an excellent school where he was doing extremely well,” Toriano told prosecutors, according to the appellate opinion. “He is clearly a candidate for not just college but probably for a good college.”

Troiano did not respond to a request from ABC News for comment. Peter McAleer, spokesman for the New Jersey Courts, told ABC News that Troiano will not make a statement on the case.

Monmouth County District Attorney Christopher Gramiccioni said his office is in discussions with the alleged victim and her family on “our next steps,” which can include presenting the case to a grand jury for an indictment in adult court.

“While we have the utmost respect for the Family Court and the judge in this case, we are grateful that the Appellate Division agreed with our assessment that this case met the legal standards for waiver to Superior Court,” Gramiccioni said in a statement.

Anjali Mehrotra, president of the National Organization for Women’s New Jersey chapter, said Troiano’s decision in the case reminded her of one made by a California judge in the case of Brock Turner, the former Stanford University swimmer convicted of sexually assaulting an intoxicated and unconscious woman at a fraternity party in 2015. A judge sparked widespread outrage by sentencing Turner to six months in county jail despite Santa Clara County prosecutors asking for a six-year prison sentence.

“He’s already retired. Otherwise, we would be making calls for him to be let go,” Mehrotra told ABC News of Troiano. “But there’s absolutely no way he should be in a courtroom again, ever.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

3 migrant children draw alarming images of life in Border Patrol detention centers

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American Academy of Pediatrics(McALLEN, Texas) — Three children, two from Guatemala and the third, whose country of origin is unknown, that had been separated from their families, drew alarming pictures of what they witnessed in U.S. Customs and Border Patrol detention centers.

One picture displayed stick figures of children covered in foil blankets behind cages, another showed what appeared to be toilets behind cage-like bars and the last depicted five children detained in a cage with three security guards watching them.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the pictures were drawn by children at the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas.

The Respite Center is a facility where many families go after being released from CBP custody en route to their final destination. It is where many families get their first shower, clean clothes and a hot meal after arriving in the U.S.

The children were asked to detail in drawings what they observed and experienced during their time in CBP custody, AAP explained to ABC News.

“Their faces were expressionless,” Dr. Sara Goza, incoming president for the American Academy of Pediatrics, told ABC News. “Their eyes were bulging and bloodshot — you could tell they were very tired.”

The drawings were given to Goza and a staff member who visited a few CBP facilities last Wednesday. They came from a mental health clinician and social worker specializing in Latino child trauma, according to AAP.

Goza recalled the smell of urine, sweat and soiled diapers as she first walked into the Ursula detention facility in McAllen, Texas.

“I saw a sea of silver,” Goza said describing the sight of children covered in foil blankets. “Some were sleeping in the middle of the morning.”

“As we were leaving, I saw two beautiful girls whose knuckles were white because they were holding one another’s hands so hard because they were afraid of being separated,” Goza told ABC News. “I asked if they were unaccompanied and found out they were. They were no older than 5 years old. It turns out they were sisters.”

The children of all ages, many of them separated from their adult relatives, didn’t say much and AAP was not allowed to speak with them or have their cellphones out.

“Some of them would wave when we waved,” Goza said.

A moment that struck her the most was seeing a young boy comfort another minor who was distraught. Curious to discover what the young boy was troubled about, Goza asked a CBP officer.

The CBP officer told Goza that the young boy had just been separated from his father who had been taken to court. The boy’s father had given him a piece of paper with his aunt’s phone number. She lives in the U.S. and the boy was told to not lose the paper, but during his transfer into the facility, he lost it.

“Here was a little boy who didn’t know if he was going to ever see his father again or be able to reach out to his aunt — the only contact he had,” Goza said.

After seeing the conditions of the McAllen and Donna, Texas facilities, Goza wanted to make one message clear.

“Children do not belong in Customs and Border Protection facilities, or in any detention facilities,” Goza said. “It is no place for a child.”

She also believes there should be pediatricians at each detention center.

“Children aren’t adults. As pediatricians, we would be able to tell if a child is sick or healthy and provide them the attention they need,” Goza said. “As a pediatrician, I know that all of this is detrimental to children’s health, short and long-term, and the effects can be severe.”

Protesters all over the nation have been backing Goza’s claims, demanding all detention facilities be closed.

The demands come after recent accounts surfaced of children — separated from their parents — being denied toothbrushes, soap and lack of access to showers in migrant facilities.

On Monday, members of Congress including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., visited two detention facilities in El Paso and Clint, Texas, where they described people being told to drink water out of a toilet bowl.

Goza said she plans to visit more facilities in the near future.

“Children who are detained show signs of physical and emotional stress. These can include developmental delay, poor psychological adjustment, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation and other behavioral problems.”

Goza also believes this is a humanitarian crisis.

“We need do to better by these people. As Americans we are capable of doing better,” she said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

"It's an honor": Colbie Caillat & her new country band, Gone West, head east to D.C. for "A Capitol Fourth"

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Patrick TracyIf you’ve listened to the radio at all since 2007, you probably know Colbie Caillat‘s breakthrough, platinum-selling smash, “Bubbly.” Now, the California singer has a new country band named Gone West and a new country single called “What Could’ve Been.”

On Thursday night, you can check out the new band as they make one of their biggest appearances so far: Performing on on PBS’ annual Independence Day concert special A Capitol Fourth.

The group includes Colbie; her fiancé, Justin Young; her longtime collaborator, Jason Reeves, and his wife, Nelly Joy

I’ve done other things, like, Christmas in Washington and performed at the White House when Bushwas there and then a couple times with Obama,” Colbie tells ABC Radio. “But this, we’re excited about, especially Nelly. She grew up in Virginia and so the Capitol Fourth is something that she was just raised, like, right near…watching it. So she’s extra excited.”

Colbie admits she’s somewhat regretful that appearing on the show means that she and Justin will miss out on her family’s annual gathering on the lake, which includes boating and fireworks.  She also notes that Nelly and Jason won’t be able to throw their annual Independence Day bash on their nine-acre property in Nashville.

“All cool things, but it’s pretty cool being at the Capitol building,” she laughs. “Y’know, this is something that we’ve never experienced before. It’s truly an honor.”

A Capitol Fourth is just one of several exciting things Gone West has lined up this month, including headlining shows and a July 15 Live with Kelly & Ryan appearance to debut their new single. 

“It’s a fun month,” says Colbie. “We’re really excited.”  

Lee Brice is also set to sing on A Capitol Fourth. It airs Thursday, July 4 at 8 p.m. on PBS.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher acquitted of killing ISIS prisoner has ranking reduced

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Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images(SAN DIEGO, Calif.) — One day after former Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher was found not guilty on charges of killing an ISIS prisoner during an Iraq deployment, he was sentenced on a lesser charge of wrongfully posing for an unofficial picture with a human casualty.

His ranking was reduced from E7, which is chief petty officer, to E6, first class petty officer.

This could mean a significant pay reduction including his retirement money. Gallagher, a decorated Navy SEAL, was also sentenced to four months’ confinement but walked away a free man because of time served in the Brigg before trial.

“I put a black eye on the two communities that I love — the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy — specifically the SEAL community,” he said in court on Wednesday. “I’ve made mistakes in my 20 years — tactical, ethical, moral. I’m not perfect but I’ve always bounced back from my mistakes and I will bounce back.”

Tim Parlatore, an attorney for Gallagher, said that Gallagher would be retiring.

“This has been a long and difficult process for him. He’s been exonerated of the most significant charges and it’s time for him to go be with his family,” Partalore said Wednesday. “It was a regretful decision to pose in the photos. It’s something that obviously if he could take that back, he would.”

Gallagher and his wife, Andrea Gallagher, had initially told the media they would make remarks after the sentencing hearing but instead walked to their car.

Gallagher wished the media a Happy Fourth of July and when asked about the sentence he said: “I feel fine. It’s all right.”

He’d been facing a court-martial on charges of murdering the ISIS prisoner in 2017. He was found not guilty of the murder charge on Tuesday.

He and his wife did speak to “Fox and Friends” on Wednesday morning in an exclusive interview to thank his supporters, including President Donald Trump, who’d moved him in March from the Brig to a less restrictive confinement while he awaited trial.

“They tried to frame me as a criminal from the get-go but, you know, we knew the truth the whole time,” Gallagher said. “We knew I was innocent of these charges the whole time.”

During his war crimes trial in a San Diego courtroom, prosecutors described Gallagher as a soldier who regularly shot at civilians and accused him of killing an ISIS prisoner in 2017 by stabbing him in the neck. Defense lawyers argued that no blood evidence was ever found on Gallagher’s belongings and that there were no videos of the alleged incidents.

They further argued that the platoon was disgruntled with Gallagher and fabricated the allegations against him.

In a shocking twist during the trial, however, Special Operator First Class Corey Scott, a Navy medic, testified he saw Gallagher stab the ISIS prisoner, but that it was Scott who suffocated the prisoner to death as an act of mercy.

Scott said he “wanted to save” the prisoner from the fate he would face if turned over to Iraqi authorities, adding “I knew he was going to die anyway,” according to the New York Times.

Scott said the ISIS prisoner was stabilized after he and Gallagher treated him for wounds suffered in an airstrike.

The prosecution presented several text messages Gallagher sent his platoon, including one that allegedly read “I’ve got a cool story when I get back, I got him with my hunting knife.”

“I thought everyone would be cool, next time I will do it so no one sees,” Gallagher wrote to his platoon, once they allegedly turned on him. “Ready to kill the mother —— who tells on me and I’ve got s— on all of you to bring you down.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Prosecutor will drop charges against Marshae Jones, who lost pregnancy when shot in Alabama

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DNY59/iStock(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) — An Alabama prosecutor announced on Wednesday that she will not pursue a misdemeanor manslaughter indictment against a woman who lost her pregnancy after she got into a fight and was shot in the stomach.

Outrage over the case against Marshae Jones, 27, had sparked protests and a national debate over whether Alabama’s law that life begins at conception, a constitutional amendment passed last year, is prompting unjust punishment against women.

Jefferson County Bessemer Cutoff District Attorney Lynniece Washington said during a news conference Wednesday that she would dismiss the case against Jones and take no further legal action against her.

“As I have previously stated, this is truly a disturbing and heartbreaking case. An unborn child was tragically lost and families on both sides of this matter suffered. Nothing, nothing, nothing we do today or in the future will change that reality,” Washington said.

“The issue before us is whether it’s appropriate to try to hold someone legally culpable for the actions that led to the death of the unborn child. There are no winners only loser in the sad ordeal,” she added. “After reviewing the facts of this case and the applicable state law, I have determined that it is not in the best interest of justice to pursue prosecution of Ms. Jones on the misdemeanor charge for which she was indicted by the grand jury. Therefore, I am hereby dismissing this case and no further legal action will be taken against Ms. Jones in this matter.”

Washington’s decision came just two days after Jones’ attorney’s filed a motion in Jefferson County Circuit Court asking that the manslaughter count be tossed, arguing that it is based on “flawed and twisted rationale.”

“We are pleased with the District Attorney’s decision to dismiss the charges against Marshae Jones. It is the appropriate decision, both for our client and for the State of Alabama,” Jones’ attorneys from the law firm White Arnold & Dowd in Birmingham said in a statement. “This is the outcome we sought this week in our motion to dismiss. We are gratified the District Attorney evaluated the matter and chose not to proceed with a case that was neither reasonable nor just.

“The District Attorney’s decision will help Marshae continue to heal from this tragic event and work to rebuild her life in a positive and productive way. She moves forward with enormous gratitude for the support she and her family have received during this challenging time.”

Jones was five months pregnant when she was shot during a fight in December in the parking lot of a Dollar General store in the Birmingham suburb of Pleasant Grove. The shooting caused Jones to suffer a miscarriage.

The woman who allegedly shot Jones, Ebony Jemison, 23, was initially charged with manslaughter, but a grand jury declined to indict her after determining she shot Jones in self-defense, prosecutors said. The same grand jury indicted Jones on May 1 on one count of manslaughter.

Washington said the grand jury’s decision was based on information provided by the Pleasant Grove police.

Shortly after Jones was shot, Pleasant Grove police Lt. Danny Reid told reporters that Jones “initiated and continued the fight which resulted in the death of her own unborn baby.”

“The investigation showed that the only true victim in this was the unborn baby,” Reid said at the time.

In their motion filed on Monday, Jones’ attorneys said the grand jury indicted Jones after finding she “intentionally” caused the death of her unborn child by “initiating” the fight with Jemison on Dec. 4 knowing she was five months pregnant.

“Using flawed and twisted rationale, the State of Alabama has charged a new theory of criminal liability that does not lawfully exist,” reads a motion to dismiss filed on Jones’ behalf. “The State charges Ms. Jones with intending to cause the death of her unborn child by allegedly ‘initiating a fight.’ The State’s theory ignores the law and ignores reason.”

The grand jury’s decision came just days before Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law a ban on most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, without exceptions for rape or incest. The only exception made under the law applies to situations where the life of the mother is endangered by her pregnancy.

The law immediately prompted a legal challenge and has not taken effect.

Prosecutors insisted that “the new law played no role in the consideration of the Grand Jury” in Jones’ case.

But abortion rights groups took a different view of the case.

In a joint statement, Planned Parenthood and Planned Parenthood Southeast said that the case represented the “criminalization of black women” and the refusal to give them justice.

“As a Black woman, despite being physically harmed and losing her pregnancy, the state does not recognize Marshae as a victim — only her fetus,” the statement reads. “With Alabama’s recent abortion ban, we will continue to see people of color being charged for their reproductive decisions and outcomes.”

On Wednesday, Jeff Robinson, deputy legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, also praised Washington’s decision, saying Jones “should not have been charged, to begin with.”

“The DA’s decision represents precisely what we want to see in these critical moments: a prosecutor who is not afraid to use prosecutorial discretion and power to refuse to prosecute when the law and justice demand that charges should be dropped,” Robinson said in a statement to ABC News.

Washington spoke out on the case for the first time on Saturday, saying there had been “miscommunications” about her office’s role in the indictment, according to The Birmingham News.

“Let me tell each and every one of you, this has been a tragedy,” Washington said. “A child…a helpless child is now dead. Was it avoidable? Absolutely. One hundred percent. However, that young lady has to live for the rest of her life thinking about her choices and decisions.”

Washington, who was on a vacation cruise in the Dominican Republic when Jones was indicted, also addressed the criticism her office has received over the grand jury’s decision.

“For those of you who called my office, and disrupted, cursed, disrespected, because I was not present — I was not in the state, shame, shame on you,” Washington said. “But I took an oath to serve. I am a black woman in black skin. So, don’t tell me how I don’t appreciate the sensitivity of a woman and the rights of women.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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