A judge who told the mother of a sexual assault victim to “keep your mouth shut, sit down” during a hearing earlier this summer recused himself from the trial on Friday, citing the mother’s stated concerns that she feared he could not conduct the trial fairly, NJ.com reported.
Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Joseph Rea was presiding over the trial of John Angeline, a former South Plainfield High School English teacher accused of sexually assaulting the male victim between September 2010 and June 2013, beginning when the boy was 15. Prior to the hearing in June, prosecutors and the defense had been trying to come to a plea deal. They were unsuccessful, and Rea was scheduling the trial to begin in October.
The victim’s mother audibly scoffed, prompting Rea to demand that she speak aloud.“We’ve been dealing with this for four and a half years, your honor,” she said. “Four and a half years. And it’s been constant delays and pushbacks.”
“All I’m asking for is fairness for this case,” she said. “Please. Please.”
Rea told her to take it up with the prosecutor’s office, then added, “Because you’re being inappropriate. Keep your mouth shut, sit down.”
The mother and her son, who stood with her in court in June to protest the delays, moved out of state and had returned for what they thought would be a guilty plea. She later told NJ Advance Media that she no longer had faith that Rea could conduct a fair trial in the case.
Rea, who has been on the bench since 2003, said he had no doubt that he could be fair but said that “the public in general needs to have confidence in the system.”
“The court has to err on the side of caution,” Rea said, granting the prosecution’s motion for recusal.
Angeline’s defense attorney was unhappy with the decision, arguing that the motion for recusal “is B.S.”
Angeline, 44, was arrested in March 2015, and the Department of Education suspended his teaching license in June 2017. The Board of Education accepted his resignation this January.
The case is due back in court on October 22.
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[Featured image: John Angeline/Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office]