Superior Court Judge John Russo Jr. is in hot water after making some “unwarranted, discourteous and inappropriate” comments toward a rape victim who was seeking a restraining order against her rapist.
Russo was presiding over a case in 2016 in which an alleged rape victim was attempting to receive a restraining order against the man she claims sexually assaulted her, when – according to the official complaint – he asked the plaintiff “Do you know how to stop somebody from having intercourse with you?” She responded affirmatively, and he pressed her on the issue. She suggested that she could “[t]ell them no,” and that’s when the Judge suggested that she “block her body parts.”
RESPONDENT [Judge Russo]: Do you know how to stop somebody from having intercourse with you?
PLAINTIFF [Alleged rape victim]: Yes.
RESPONDENT: How would you do that?
PLAINTIFF: I’d probably physically harm them somehow.
RESPONDENT: Short of physically harming them?
PLAINTIFF: Tell them no.
RESPONDENT: Tell them no. What else?
PLAINTIFF: To stop.
RESPONDENT: To stop. What else?
PLAINTIFF: And to run away or try to get away.
RESPONDENT: Run away, get away. Anything else?
PLAINTIFF: I – – that’s all I know.
RESPONDENT: Block your body parts?
PLAINTIFF: Yeah. RESPONDENT: Close your legs? Call the police? Did you do any of those things?
Judge Russo denied her restraining order based on the belief that she allegedly didn’t attempt to fight back against her rapist, although it should be noted that such an indicator has no legal bearing on whether a Final Restraining Order is issued.
It’s also reported that Russo made off-record comments to his Clerk about the alleged victim’s history as an “exotic dancer,” saying she should be more skilled in “fighting off unwanted sexual [advances.]”
While the Judge didn’t say anything at the disciplinary hearing, his lawyer, Amelia Carolla, claimed that he is “remorseful” and “will not do this again.” But this isn’t the first time that Russo has come under fire for inappropriate conduct, apparently.
NBC reports that Russo “allegedly used his authority to manipulate court scheduling in his favor during a guardianship dispute involving his adult son” in 2017, and “failing to recuse himself from an alimony case involving a couple he knew from high school.” In the latter case, he reduced the husband’s alimony payments from $10,000 to $300.
Additionally, the official complaint accuses the Judge of having a “conversation about a paternity text with a mother in a case he was presiding over without the father and plaintiff in the case being present” which is seen as misconduct.
An ex-Clerk for Russo has also alleged that he sexually harassed and discriminated against her in 2017, while bragging about his ability to “break” careers. He allegedly told the ex-Clerk that “he forced former Gov. Jim McGreevey to resign” according to the lawsuit.
Russo claims that he will “accept any punishment” the court decides to hand down, and only asks that he be allowed to return to work after he pays his dues, according to Carolla. If even one of these things are true, however, it sounds like he’s better suited to be flipping burgers than presiding over a courtroom.
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