“Tried closing your legs?” a judge in New Jersey asks rape survivor

The Hush Post| 5:40 pm | One-minute read|

A judge from superior court of New Jersey, USA could be suspended for three months without pay. The reason for this is that he asked a rape survivor if she tried closing her legs to protect herself.

The court advisory panel this week released a 45 page recommendation in the case of John Russo Jr., a family court judge in Ocean County, New Jersey. Including Russo’s and nearly two dozen other interviews, the investigation specified that judge may have violated the Code of Judicial Conduct many times in past years.

The example cited came during the questioning of a woman seeking a restraining order against the father of her 5 year old daughter in 2016. She told the judge that the man had sexually assaulted her.

As the panel’s recommended transcript read, Russo asked the woman, “Do you know how to stop somebody from having intercourse with you?”

He responded that she could try to physically harm the attacker in addition to saying “No” and attempting to flee.

Continuing with his questions, judge asked: “Run away, get away, anything else?”

She then responded: “I-that’s all I know.”

Russo:  “Blocking your body parts?”

After that he asked: “Close your legs? Call the police? Did you do any of those things?”

As the transcript indicates, Russo continued to press the plaintiff on her efforts to prevent the alleged assault. He was continuously requesting specific details on the steps she took to protect herself.

Further it read that the use of Russo’s use of hypothetical scenarios were unnecessary to determine whether a restraining order should be given or not. The judge ultimately denied the woman’s request invoking her answers to those questions as a part of his decision.

According to the committee, the judge said that his questioning was necessary to demonstrate the elements of force or coercion used during the assault.”

However, the committee said that Russo indicated that he would not ask those type of questions to an alleged sexual assault survivor.

But his offenses didn’t end here. Having a conversation with his staff, he asked, “What did you think of that? Did you hear the sex stuff?” The committee wrote that his comments were “infantile and grossly inappropriate.”

We have respect for the process as well as the advisory committee on the judicial conduct, and therefore won’t comment further”, Russo’s attorney, David Corrigan said.

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