The following article includes graphic testimony, reader discretion is advised
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The trial of former South Plainfield English Teacher John Q. Angeline, accused of molesting his stepson over a period of more than four years beginning in August 2010 when the boy was a 15-year-old freshman at South Plainfield High School, ended today in a mistrial after a Superior Criminal Court Jury in New Brunswick reached an impasse. The jury of six women and six men was unable to come to a unanimous decision on any of the charges, including: Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact (third-degree offense), Criminal Sexual Contact (fourth-degree offense), Sexual Assault (second-degree offense), and Endangering the Welfare of a Child (second-degree offense). If served consecutively, the charges carry a prison sentence of a minimum of 13 years and maximum of 26½ years.
Judge Pedro Jimenez, who presided over the trial, ordered the defendant to return on Jan. 6, 2020 at 1:30p.m. for a hearing to determine whether the prosecution will seek another trial. At that time, Jimenez will decide on the defense’s motion for mistrial. If the case is retried, a conviction would mean Angeline’s teaching license would be officially revoked, and he would be banned from public employment for life.
Throughout the five-day trial, witnesses took the stand as the prosecution presented their case, unraveling what took place during the years the boy lived with his mother and stepfather, Angeline. The prosecution also played a phone conversation recorded by police of the boy’s mother confronting Angeline about the molestation, where Angeline admitted to touching his stepson’s genitals on numerous occasions, but he maintained the touching was not sexual in nature. The prosecution bore the burden of proving that the touching was sexual, while the defense argued that the touching was nonsexual because it did not result in sexual gratification.
On the morning of Oct. 30, Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Carver delivered his opening statement, preparing the jury for the graphic details they would hear over the coming days of the many years Angeline molested his stepson.
Carver explained it was on the morning of March 1, 2015, that Angeline’s then 19-year-old stepson sat at the kitchen table of his South Plainfield home and described to his mother and biological father how Angeline had sexually abused him for more than four years.
“(The son) told his parents a secret that he kept from his parents for a long time, he had been touched inappropriately by his stepfather over a period of years,” Carver said to the jury. “Make no mistake, it was of a sexual nature.”
Angeline’s lawyer, Joseph Mazraani, painted a very different picture, saying that the boy was upset that his stepfather would not let him go out the night before. Angry after an argument with Angeline, Mazraani said the boy texted his mother to come to his bedroom, where her son told her the lie that Angeline had been molesting him.
“There is no physical evidence to corroborate this, ladies and gentlemen. John Angeline is innocent,” Mazraani told the jury in his hour-long opening statement.
It has been nearly five years since Angeline was arrested on March 2, 2015, during an investigation led by Detective George Stilwell of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office and Detective Lloyd McNelly of the South Plainfield Police Department, resulting in the immediate suspension from his teaching position. South Plainfield Acting Superintendent Thomas Gialanella said at the time, "As of yesterday (Mar. 2), Mr. Angelina, as proscribed by law, is suspended with pay until further notice.”
On June 15, 2017, The New Jersey State Board of Examiners officially suspended Angeline’s teaching license and pay, however, he maintained health benefits through South Plainfield. In Jan. of 2019, the South Plainfield Board of Education (SPBOE) accepted and approved Angeline’s resignation.
A Middlesex County Grand Jury indicted Angeline on Sept. 1, 2015, on charges of sexually assaulting his stepson for nearly three years, stating “the victim was sexually assaulted on numerous occasions in South Plainfield on various dates between Sept. 1, 2010 and June 24, 2013.”
During the police investigation, video secretly taken of the boy in his bedroom was found in Angeline’s possession after a search. This prompted two additional charges to be added. Click Link below:
After the discovery of the video, a grand jury indicted Angeline in Aug. of 2016 on the charge of endangering the welfare of a child, which is a second-degree crime. According to the indictment, “Angeline, on or between Feb. 4, 2015 and Feb. 12, 2015, in the Borough of South Plainfield, unlawfully and knowingly photographed or filmed a child in a prohibited sex act.” The grand jury also added an invasion of privacy charge, a third-degree offense, for allegedly filming or taking photographs knowing that Angeline was not licensed or privileged to do so and without the boy’s consent.
Leading up to the trial, however, the video was determined inadmissible and the two charges added by the grand jury for videotaping his stepson were dropped.
In the months leading up to the trial, Middlesex Country Prosecutor John Carver filed a motion to include Angeline’s statement to police taken on March 2, 2015, shortly after his arrest. At that time, the defense filed a motion to suppress the statement, based on “exclusionary rule” or “fruit of the poisonous tree,” which prevents evidence collected or analyzed in violation of the defendant's constitutional rights from being used in a court of law. Defense argued that charges were not read to Angeline before the statement was taken, so anything obtained in the statement was omitted from evidence and the motion to suppress was granted.
This past June, Angeline was expected to plead guilty after Prosecutor Thomas Carver offered a plea agreement. His guilty plea would be in exchange for a no-prison sentence, and he would abide by Megan’s Law requirements, forcing Angeline to register as a sex offender. In a mid-June hearing, however, the plea agreement did not go through.
A rigorous jury selection carefully eliminated anyone who had heard of the high profile case. It all came down to the jury of twelve people with two alternates, who would finally decide Angeline’s fate.
Throughout the trial, Angeline sat between his two lawyers, Joseph Mazraani and Jeffrey Farmer, staring down at a tablet or straight ahead, occasionally whispering to one of his attorneys. Some of Angeline’s South Plainfield colleagues came out for the trial. Sandy Doyon, Diana Joffe, Sue McAndrews and Michele Fugazzi sat in the courtroom for portions of the trial as well as Debbie Boyle who stated "was there as an observer to hear the testimony and not hearsay."
The prosecution presented several witnesses over the days that followed. The boy’s biological father was the first to take the stand, followed by his mother. Both recounted their experiences once Angeline came into their lives through numerous questions posed by the prosecutor and defense attorneys.
The trial resumed on Nov. 7 and Angeline’s stepson, now 24 years old, was called to the stand. He had spent most of the trial waiting outside the courtroom with his mother, biological father, sister and other family members and friends with representatives of the Middlesex County Victim Advocacy Program nearby for support. During his testimony, it was presented to the jury that he had been on student council while he attended South Plainfield High School and ran track for fall, winter and spring track, a sport that caused his muscles to tighten.
Angeline’s stepson said the touching of his genitals occurred many times a day, including while Angeline massaged the boy’s sore muscles, while they lay in bed together under the covers, on the car ride to school, and while he played video games. The stepson also explained that Angeline introduced the boy to “man-scaping,” and would shave and groom the boy’s pubic area for him.
The testimony began with what happened on the evening of Feb. 28, 2015, when he was 19-years-old.
“When you said that you were sexually abused, what did you tell your mother?” Carver asked.
“I told my mom that I had figured out why I was always so angry,” said the stepson. “I had problems with anger and I didn’t know why. I told her I was being sexually abused for years. I pointed upstairs to where John Angeline was, and she knew who I was talking about.”
Carver asked Angeline’s stepson to describe the relationship he had with his stepfather. He replied that he first met Angeline when he was 14 years old. Angeline was introduced as his mom’s close friend. The stepson explained that his biological father was a police officer who worked nights. His parents were divorced, and he only saw his biological father on holidays and birthdays.
“When my mother got married, it allowed me to have that dad that I had wanted for years and I finally had that,” the stepson said, referring to Angeline, whom he called Q for short at his stepfather’s request. “The best thing I can relate it to is he was the fun uncle you got to have fun with. Then he was a friend and our relationship slowly transitioned to a father figure…He became my dad. He helped me in school, took me shopping. He became a very important role model in my life.”
Carver asked the stepson how far into his mother’s marriage to Angeline that things in his relationship with his stepfather changed. The stepson recounted that it was when he was 15 years old, when his mother had been married to Angeline for a year, that their relationship took a very different turn.
“He took more of an authoritative role,” the stepson said. “He would punch me if I did something wrong in school or at home. It started to get to the point of a sexual thing.”
Angeline’s stepson went into graphic details about how the sexual touching began, saying that it started playfully with Angeline “hitting him in the nuts,” and moved to Angeline making comments about his body when no one was around. He then described how Angeline would touch his genitals outside his clothes and eventually inside his clothes.
“Hitting of the testicles, I took as a playful thing,” Angeline’s stepson said. “I didn’t get offended, but once he started touching me outside of my clothes, I felt it was weird, and so I pushed him off. He would be persistent.”
Carver asked about comments that were made about his body.
“At first he would say I look really good, working out was paying off, or you have a nice ass,” Angeline’s stepson said.
“There came a time when the hitting of the testicles and hitting of the nuts, more advanced touching happened. What changed?” asked Carver.
It was around that time going into his freshman year of high school that Angeline’s stepson became part of South Plainfield High School’s Track Team. With intense practice and track meets, he said the running took a toll on his body, adding that if he had a rough day at practice, he would ask his mother or Angeline, who had a background in sports, to “get the knots out.”
“At any point in time was there a need or did you request that your groin or genitals be massaged when you asked for a massage?” asked the prosecutor.
Angeline’s stepson replied he did not ask Angeline to touch his genitals. Carver then asked to describe how Angeline would perform his massage.
“He would start giving me a massage and hook me up to a TENS unit, which something that has pads on it and sends electrical pulses to your muscles and helps them relax. As he was massaging me, he would slowly slide his hand up my shorts…and would start massaging my genitals…testicles and penis.”
Angeline’s stepson said at first he would tell Angeline no and push him off, but that Angeline would persist. He said the touching would occur beyond the massages multiple times a day.
“He would tell me that it was normal and no big deal, that it would be our little thing, that he wouldn’t tell anyone,” Angeline’s stepson said.
Carver wanted to know when the behavior became accepted as normal. The stepson said that after about six months, it had become normal. Carver asked question after question of the stepson, detailing the circumstances of the molestation.
“I still felt like it was weird, but I was still liking the fact of having a dad,” said the stepson. “He said it would be our thing. I was made to think it was okay. I was groomed to think it was okay…He told me that it was fine. He would use a calming voice and would pressure me. After you hear something for a while, you start to believe it, especially at a young age.”
The stepson went on to describe how the molesting and manipulation evolved over the years. In the beginning, Angeline’s stepson was just beginning to date girls.
“He made comments about how much he loved my balls and cock,” said the stepson. “He was jealous of girls I was with.”
He went on to explain the other circumstances during which he was molested, saying that Angeline would come into his bedroom and lay in bed with him or stand behind him while he was playing video games and start touching him.
“At first I pushed back and I wasn’t ok with it,” said the stepson. “If I said no, he would get whiny and say I was no fun.”
Carver pressed Angeline’s stepson to explain how he would be touched and how the encounter would end.
“He would cradle both testicles, rub the tip of my penis and stroke my penis,” said Angeline’s stepson. “He would make comments about how much he loved my balls and cock, how it looked and felt…I would lay there and zone out and wait for it to be over.”
The stepson was asked to describe what happened when Angeline would crawl into bed with him. Carver asked the stepson if he was ever erect when Angeline touched him in bed, to which the stepson answered that he was. When asked if the touching ever resulted in climax, he said Angeline always wanted him to climax, but he never let it get to that point. He would stop Angeline.
When questioned about when the touching happened, he explained that it happened mostly before his mother came home from work during the 1½ hours they were alone, but Angeline would be careful to not get caught if anyone was home.
Angeline’s stepson said they would be under the covers and if the floor boards creaked, Angeline would stop and “make it look like we were just lying in bed.” The stepson also recalled conversations when Angeline expressed his desire to “blow him.”
Other times, he would be in his room playing video games on a headset with friends and Angeline would come up behind him and touch him. The boy couldn’t say anything because his friends were listening.
By the time he was 16 years old, the frequency became even more, according to the stepson, who said the molestation happened every day, at least twice a day. Angeline taught at the high school his stepson attended, so they would drive to school. Angeline’s stepson said it was when they were alone in the car that he also touched him inappropriately.
“In the mornings, we would drive together,” said the stepson. “Being a teenager with hormones, I would get an erection in the mornings. He would see that I was erect.”
According to his stepson’s testimony, before Angeline began touching him in the car, he would say something like, “Somebody’s excited this morning. What are you thinking about?”
The stepson described how Angeline would tell him to scoot closer to him and proceed to rub his penis outside his clothes. Angeline would stop touching him by the time they got to the front of the police station just before the turn onto the road leading to South Plainfield High School.
Eventually, Angeline’s stepson began dating more often and became sexually active. Testimony revealed that Angeline introduced him to “man-scaping” and would groom him. During the grooming, he would touch the boy’s genitals.
“He would help shave my genitals,” his stepson said on the stand. “At first he was showing me what to do. It became a normal thing…He would massage my balls, penis and sometimes try to put his mouth around my penis. I’d stop him, and he would get mad about it.”
He recalled behaviors that Angeline would engage in after he returned home after a date with a girl.
“When I got home, he would rub my penis to see if I had had sex,” his stepson said.
As the years passed, the stepson said the pattern of sexual abuse continued. When he graduated from high school, he went on to attend Raritan Valley Community College, where he participated in a peer to peer counseling activity. While talking to one of the peer advisors and reading a pamphlet on childhood sexual abuse, Angeline’s stepson says it became clear to him that the anger issues he had been experiencing were due to years of sexual molestation.
“I was always angry and had a short temper,” he explained. “I wasn’t always like that.”
Carver asked him what changed after that, and he replied that he realized he wasn’t in control of his life, adding that something had clicked in his head. He went on to describe the dynamics of their relationship. He explained the control that Angeline had over him, stating that Angeline would buy things or take them away, but as a boy, he said he finally had the father he had always wanted. After reading the pamphlet on the repercussions of sexual abuse, he wanted to tell his mother, but had no idea how.
“For the most part, I had that dad and family,” said the stepson. “My mom was generally happy. We all loved him. I loved him. I asked him to adopt me. He made my mom happy and I did what I needed to do to keep my mom happy.”
Carver asked what led him to tell his mother, and he began describing a physical altercation between the two. At the time, the boy was 19-years-old and wanted to go out, but Angeline said he could not because he was being punished for having a girl over without permission. Angeline asked for their shared gas card back and a violent fight followed.
“A mirror was broken, a hole was put in my wall, a possession of mine was damaged very badly, my life was threatened,” said the stepson.
He said that Angeline threatened to beat his stepson and charged upstairs after him. Once upstairs, Angeline pushed him into a wall and into his mirror, breaking it. Angeline grabbed the senior baton his stepson’s track coach had given him. Angeline proceeded to smash the baton on the dresser, denting the baton. The stepson pushed Angeline onto his bed and got on top of him with one hand on Angeline’s throat, the other balled into a fist that Angeline held in the air.
At that point, his mother broke up the fight. According to his stepson, Angeline said that he was lucky his mother came in the room at that point because he would have beaten the boy within an inch of his life. Once alone, the stepson texted his mother and said he needed to talk to her. She came into his room and her son told her everything that had happened.
“I told her I was sexually abused,” the stepson said. “She said by whom? I started to cry. I pointed upstairs to where Mr. Angeline was located in the house. She said she was going to ask me one time, ‘Are you telling the truth?’ That was the only time she ever questioned me.”
The stepson admitted to the prosecutor that he had lied in the past about not doing homework, not being where he was supposed to be, and plagiarizing papers in high school, but said they were not serious offenses.
After being confronted by his wife, Angeline came into his stepson’s room demanding the keys to the car he had given him for his birthday. After Angeline took the keys, his wife told him to get out of the house.
The prosecutor went through the events of the following morning when his biological father was called to the home. Barely able to look his father in the face to tell the secret he had kept for years, Angeline’s stepson said he could only get the word “I” out. His mother told the father what had happened, who then went to the South Plainfield Police Department and Officer Lloyd McNelly came to the boy’s house.
During cross-examination, Mazraani questioned Angeline’s stepson about what happened when he told his mother.
“So your mom comes up to the bedroom, and she comes into your room and at that point you tell her what you said,” Mazraani said. “Obviously, your mother had no idea what you were going to tell her. She was shocked.”
Mazraani confirmed with Angeline’s stepson that it was his testimony that he didn’t tell his mother specifics at first and that that did not happen until after he gave his statement to the police, when he gave an audio/video statement. Mazraani added that the statement was 17-minutes long and was given when his memory was most clear of the events.
Mazraani also asked if he knew that he was not allowed to discuss the case with other witnesses, which included his parents and the reply was that was he did know.
Several birthday and Father’s Day cards that Angeline had received from his stepson were presented by Mazraani. Many of the cards thanked his stepfather for helping him with everything, adding that he would not be the person he was without him and saying how much he loved and appreciated his stepfather, adding, “even though you are my stepfather, I love you like my dad.”
Mazraani also asked him how many times he had met with the prosecutor to prepare to testify and at what point he had learned about the cards that would be presented. Angeline’s stepson answered that he knew the cards would be presented.
Mazraani questioned Angeline’s stepson about the sequence of events, stating that in his statement to police, he said the molestation started while they were lying in bed, not during the massages. Mazraani also questioned the credibility of the boy by pointing out that the physical fight he described actually took place on Feb. 21, not Feb. 28, the day he revealed the molestation to his mother.
The stepson said that he remembered it differently and Mazraani went on to point out other inconsistencies, saying that the statement the boy made to police differed from his testimony.
“You said Mr. Angeline threatened to kill you, good thing mom came up because he was going to kill you,” recounted Mazraani from his testimony. He added that in the boy’s statement to police, when asked if Angeline ever threatened him, the boy said that he had not been threatened.
After the boy’s statement to police, he obtained a temporary restraining order to prevent contact with Angeline. The general area the restraining order included was sexual touching, it did not include mention of the physical altercation. Mazraani said that eleven days after the restraining order was put into place, on March 12, 2015, it was amended and details were added after the fact.
“A paragraph was added twelve lines long that talks about the physical altercation with the broken mirror, threats to kill him, pushing, shoving, fists thrown, threatened life, good ass kicking, mirror broke after you were pushed into it, beat baton, verbal harassment is constant and touching,” said Mazraani.
Mazraani continued to pick apart the boy’s statement to police, saying that it was made when his memory was sharpest as they were closest to the events that occurred. He compared the boy’s words from nearly five years ago to the detailed accounts of molestation of the young man who sat before him on the stand.
Before he stepped down, Carver asked him a few more questions and wanted him to explain why he wrote such loving words in the cards he had given to Angeline. As he said his final words of testimony, he broke down in tears.
“I loved him,” he said of Angeline. “He was my dad. I got used to it, it was normal. I didn’t want to lose my dad.”
Detective Lloyd McNelly of the South Plainfield Police Department was next called to the stand. McNelly, explained he has been a police officer in the capacity of patrolmen, juvenile detective, DARE officer and assignment detective. He explained what happened on the morning of March 1, 2015, when he got the call to come into work.
McNelly described how he met with the boy’s father who had come to the South Plainfield Police Department.
“He told me that his biological son several years back, four years back when he was 15, was the victim of sexual assault,” said McNelly.
McNelly said he had to determine a specific course of action at that point since he usually spoke directly to the victim, so McNelly went to the house to speak with Angeline’s stepson. It had been the first time McNelly had gotten the report from a third party. McNelly said his objective when he arrived at the home was to build a rapport and see if the boy would come back to the police station to make a statement, which is what happened. McNelly expressed that the boy’s demeanor was uneasy.
Defense Attorney Jeffrey Farmer questioned McNelly, asking why he had not taken a statement at the house and McNelly stated that the equipment was at the station. Farmer probed further reminding him that New Jersey is a one party consent state. He would have been allowed to secretly record audio as long as he was part of the conversation. McNelly said he did not remember what kind of recording abilities his cell phone had at the time and preferred to use the official equipment at the station. McNelly took a 17-minute statement from Angeline’s stepson at the South Plainfield Police Department.
A recurrent question of the defense was why the boy’s sister was never interviewed by police. Testimony had revealed she was working for Disney for part of the first year that the abuse happened, but she was in the house when many of the incidents occurred. Her brother said she was in her room with headphones on watching television often.
The prosecutor continued to present witnesses until the final day of the trial, when a recording would be played. With Sergeant George Stilwell on the stand from the Special Victims Unit of Middlesex County, it was explained that he conducted a “telephone call between two target numbers, two parties regarding allegations that were brought forth,” in efforts to get Angeline to confess to a crime. Angeline’s stepson had testified he was too upset to make the call, so his mother confronted Angeline during a phone conversation that lasted about 40 minutes.
Although Angeline’s voice was garbled in several places, and several other sections had been redacted due to arguments made by defense. The jury was advised by the judge to only take the defendant’s response into account, that the boy’s mother’s comments were not considered fact because the comments were made to illicit certain responses.
In the quiet of the courtroom, as the jury leaned forward to hear the recording from speakers attached to a laptop before them, the mother’s voice was heard on a recording made on March 1, 2015.
“Make me understand, John, please help me understand this,” she said.
“What did he tell you?” asked Angeline.
“He told me that you would climb into bed with him with the fakeness of cuddling, how sometimes you would grab his penis or his balls on top of his clothes and then you would go inside of his clothes,” said the mother. “And he told me this has been going on since freshman year summer going into sophomore year. I told you all of this yesterday when we talked and you keep telling me that is happened, but it wasn’t sexual. I don’t understand the separation.”
Angeline responded by asking her to remember who they were dealing with, and she replied that they’re dealing with her son.
“He’s not an angel, absolutely,” she said.
“He’s told you lie after lie after lie after lie,” said Angeline. “This is my question to you, when did he see a counselor? I’m telling you the truth, I’m telling you the truth.”
The mother asked him over and over, “What is your truth, John? What is your truth? Because I can’t figure out your truth.”
“If I had anything to hide, I would have hidden it, but I have nothing to hide,” said Angeline. “I am being honest with you every step of the way.”
Angeline questioned why his stepson waited a week or so after he saw the counselor to tell her. Angeline continued to say that her son was accusing him of molesting him because he was mad that he wasn’t allowed to go out.
“Here’s my point, John, I don’t care when he opened up,” she said. “What’s bothering me is something happened with you and him. That’s my issue.”
“He initiated these things, he initiated the cuddling, he would come upstairs,” said Angeline.
Angeline went on to say that his stepson asked to be cuddled and after he would ask for money or other things.
“Cuddling is spooning with your f****** wife,” replied the mother. “Cuddling is not spooning with your stepson.”
Angeline said that if his stepson had a problem with the touching, he would have told him that it was awkward. He said they had a relationship that had been like that forever, adding that he was blowing everything out of proportion.
“I didn’t do anything to molest him, there was never anything sexual, it was never that way,” said Angeline. “And I believe that and I know that’s true.”
Angeline explained that she would see him lying in bed with her son, but accused him of manipulating the situation.
“So in your mind it’s okay to lie in bed with him, touch him, hold his balls, hold his dick, that’s ok?” asked the mother.
“Yes,” answered Angeline after a short pause. “Yes, in context yes, because it was not a sexual context. It wasn’t a rape.”
The mother asked her husband to clarify.
“So you’re saying you touched him, it just wasn’t in a sexual way?” she asked.
“I’m telling you that I have touched him, I’ve shaved him, so obviously, I’ve touched him,” said Angeline.
Angeline continued, “I felt that the relationship that he and I had, that it was ok…I have actually physically touched this kid in more places than I could imagine at his request.”
The boy’s mother said that since he ran track meets and needed massages, that yes, she had touched him too, but never inappropriately. Angeline insisted that there was never any malice, intent to hurt or harm him. He claimed that his stepson was accusing him to discredit him.
“I don’t understand how your version of cuddling could be so different than what the word means,” said the mother.
Angeline went on to say that her son told her that he was molested and that is the farthest thing from the truth. His wife then told him to look up molestation and see what it means.
“Molestation would be unwanted touching,” said Angeline. “He wanted the touching, so therefore, no.”
Angeline explained that the boy wanted to be touched by him, so it was not molestation. He said that her son was a manipulator. Angeline said he asked to have his pubic area shaved and explained that in his head, it was innocent.
“So you believe that you are 100% innocent, he is a liar, and that he is making this all up,” said the mother. “So he would come to you and say give me a massage. He would come to you and say, touch my dick.”
“He would sometimes,” Angeline said.
“There’s a difference between touching and groping,” said the mother. “So he would come to you and say, touch my dick, touch my balls. Are you really trying to convince me of that?”
“No, I’m not,” Angeline said. “I’m trying to convince you that he manipulated the relationship that we had, which was a nonsexual relationship and is now turned into something it was not.”
Angeline’s wife asked him to clarify how her son asked Angeline to touch his genitals, and he said that he would ask him to, adding that he was trying to get her to see his side of it, claiming the relationship was nonsexual. Angeline went on to warn her that it could affect not only him, but everyone’s lives if they went to the authorities and all of their lives would be ruined.
“If this does go out into the world, it’s not going to just hurt me or affect me,” he said. “It’s going to hurt you, and him and everybody.”
Angeline added that his stepson was trying to figure out a way to “get the heat off of him.”
“So he pulled out ‘I was molested?’” she said.
The conversation continued with the mother saying that Angeline was the one twisting, arguing semantics, and downplaying the situation. Angeline tried to reason with his wife, painting the picture of how their lives would be destroyed if they went to the authorities.
“I’m trying to tell you,” said Angeline. “The things that happened with he and I happened between him and I in front of you and behind you.”
“You’re out of your f****** mind,” she said. “You would have never made it out of the f****** house. You think I walked past that room and I know what you were doing under those covers, and I’m going to walk away? You’re out of your f****** mind. You’re crazy.”
Angeline insisted that he did not have any sexual contact relations with him. Angeline said that he was not touching him as much as he was being accused of doing. His wife replied that in Angeline’s mind, it was cuddling. It wasn’t molestation to him.
“You were touching his penis, you were massaging his penis, his balls,” she said.
Angeline said, “Okay.”
“You go so far and say, ‘Yeah, it was, but… ‘I can’t wrap my head around this,” she said.
The mother then asked her husband why.
“Why did I do it?” said Angeline. “The only thing that happened was him initiating because he wanted to do it.”
Angeline went into details about how his stepson asked for him to shave his pubic area. She told him that he manipulated her son because he knew how to do it and accused him of manipulating her.
“You became like a dad to my son and you earned everybody’s trust,” she said. “I trusted you like you would not believe. I trusted you with everything I had. I trusted you with the most important thing I would ever have in my life and that’s with both my kids, and I never ever ever would have suspected this, never.”
As the conversation continued, the mother expressed her worry about her son’s future.
“I am right now trying to figure out what is going to be best for my son,” she said. “My son, not you, not me, not your phantom endless people. I am trying to find the best course of action for him. I fear for him. You have f***** him up so bad. The sad part is that I have to believe that somewhere inside of you, you know. I have to because could I have been that wrong?”
The conversation continued between the two as the boy’s mother accused Angeline of seeing the opportunity to come into their lives and manipulate them all.
“I f*** it up,” Angeline said. “I f*** it up royally. I don’t know why. I don’t know how. If I could do it all over again I wouldn’t do it the same way…I’m trying to wrap my head around it, but I’m still here and mulling it over in my head, but it was innocent.”
“But it happened!” the mother yelled.
Angeline continued saying he understood that she was standing by her son, and she understands why she is supporting him. His wife pleaded with him to tell her what is true about what her son said and how it is okay in his mind.
“...There was the shaving of body parts,” said Angeline. “And there was cuddling, lying in bed watching TV with his arm around me and my arm around him, and then a rub here… I’d say, ‘Oh is that a hard-on you have?’”
“In my mind, with the relationship we had, it wasn’t inappropriate,” said Angeline.
“I’m trying to figure out what happened to my son?” she asked.
Angeline went on to explain that if it were molestation, it would be abusive and violent. He said that in his mind, touching her son’s genitals was okay because he asked for it.
“I’m sorry,” Angeline said to his wife. “I’m sorry that I’m f*** up more than I think. And I’m sorry that I f***** up your son.”
With Stilwell on the stand, Mazraani questioned if he passed notes to the mother while she was on the call. He even replayed several seconds of the audio, saying it was the sound of a Sharpie scribbling on a pad. Playing the sound for the jury to hear, Stilwell said he did not recall using a Sharpie to make notes. Mazraani made the point that whatever notes had been slipped to the mother should have been in evidence. Carver responded that any one word notes would not constitute the omission of crucial elements of the detective’s case notes.
The prosecution then rested. Under the advice of his attorneys, Angeline decided to execute his right to remain silent and did not take the stand. Closing arguments from both Carver and Mazraani took place on Nov. 13, as the prosecutor and defense summed up their cases. Before they began, Jimenez addressed those present in the courtroom, telling them if they left during closing arguments, a mistrial could be declared for disrupting the jury.
“‘It was never anything sexual,’” said Mazraani, quoting his client at the start of his closing. “‘It was never that way. Believe me, I know what’s true, he’s trying to twist it and there’s a problem every step of the way.’ That’s what John Angeline said to his wife repeatedly and consistently on March 1, 2015, and also in text messages,” he continued. “Words spoken in the immediate aftermath…Words spoken in a private moment when he had no idea the police were spying on him.”
Mazraani went on to say that his client did not molest his stepson, insisting that there was no sexual touching, that it was not that way, adding just as his client had feared, it had all been twisted into a story of abuse. Mazraani said that once the words condemning Angeline of molesting him stumbled out of his mouth, the die had been cast, and he had to continue the lie. He went on to stay that the prosecution prepared their witnesses for hours and hours, twisting the words of the witnesses so their stories could line up.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s time to get the story straight, John Angeline is not guilty, and I am going to ask that you to find him not guilty,” said Mazraani.
He went on to describe the dynamics of the Angeline household, saying that the boy’s mother was a “softy” and the discipline fell on Angeline, adding that without Angeline, the boy would do “whatever he wanted.” He said that Angeline’s relationship with his stepson took a turn for the worse when he turned 18 years old, adding that he did not like the rules of the house and Angeline’s discipline.
Mazraani explained the events leading up to the boy’s confession to his mother, saying he was upset with his stepfather after getting in trouble for sneaking a girl from the high school into the house. Because he wanted to go out and John said no, the boy wanted to retaliate.
“His manipulation was predictable,” Mazraani added. “He pulls out something no one ever expected, something that was bound to get someone’s attention, especially a mom, an allegation of abuse.”
“It was like lightening and John was out of the house,” said Mazraani. “It was seconds or minutes and the relationship was over. It was something that big…When those words tumbled out of his mouth, he could not take them back. The lie he told this time was so big and so monstrous that he could not admit that it was a lie.”
Mazraani’s closing argument continued as he said his biological father had animosity towards Angeline and as a police officer, he received special treatment. Mazraani said the police went against protocol and went to his home instead of having him come to them at the police station to offer a statement. Mazraani asked what was Angeline’s stepson supposed to do when a police officer showed up to his house, adding that he could not tell his dad or his father’s friends that he was lying. So he took another step, and at his father’s insistency, he told the police.
Mazraani stressed that the 17-minute statement the boy gave on March 1, 2015, did not include the amount of detail that went into the lengthy testimony nearly five years later.
“Memory doesn’t get better with time,” Mazraani said, a phrase he used repeatedly throughout the trial.
Mazraani continued, saying that one element the state has to prove is the person doing the touching has to gain sexual gratification, adding there was no evidence the boy was made to touch the defendant or that the actions aroused the defendant.
“I know it’s weird,” Mazraani added speaking of the pubic grooming he did for his stepson. “But it’s not done for a sexual reason, sexual intent.”
Mazraani also said the police failed to note the boy’s emotional state, adding that the only reference to emotional state was that the boy was uneasy when he had a camera pointed at his face “to capture what he knew was a lie.” Mazraani stated that there were numerous inconsistencies, lack of evidence and an unreasonable story.
He went on to say that Angeline’s stepson presented himself as a “polished young man” on the witness stand, claiming that he is, instead, actually a “liar, manipulator and a bull sh******.” Mazraani added that everyone went along with him after the claims of sexual abuse were made.
“You got the polished version,” said Mazraani. “That’s not who he is, it’s who everyone needed him to be.”
The defense attorney used PowerPoint to highlight what he felt were inconsistencies in the testimony of the witnesses that he said show how undeniable the inconsistencies were. Mazraani went on to say that Angeline’s stepson had met with the prosecutor three times to prepare to testify in the case. He said the prosecutor helped the witnesses corroborate testimony, saying that “every witness twisted their story to line up” with his.
Mazraani cited several points where witnesses used almost identical phrases. For instance, the parents both referred to their son’s past behaviors of misconduct at a teenager saying, “It’s not like he robbed a bank or anything.”
He explained that the police extracted volumes of information from Angeline’s cell phone, but did not extract information from anyone else’s phones, saying that only a handful of pictures were taken of text messages. Mazraani also posed the question of why his sister was never interviewed.
Mazraani said that during the recorded conversation, Angeline’s wife cut him off often throughout the interaction, saying that she did not want to hear what he was saying. He went on to say that the prosecutor is going to ask them to find Angeline guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and that the prosecution was going to put forth what they believe the garbled voice was saying on the call.
“By asking you to convict somebody beyond a reasonable doubt, the state is asking you to take somebody’s liberty away,” Mazraani said.
He pointed out to the jury that the recorded conversation was hard to hear and said that the prosecution should have provided a clearer recording if they wanted to ask the jury to take away someone’s liberty, saying that a lot was lost in the conversation because of the quality of the audio.
Mazraani went on to say there was an inherent prejudice with the charges because they evoked a lot of emotion from people, stressing that sympathy cannot play a role in their determination of a verdict.
“Twisted, every step of the way,” Mazraani said. “Everything John feared came true.”
As he prepared to end his closing argument, Mazraani summed up his sentiments by saying Angeline's stepson told a lie so big that there was no going back, adding that by the time it came to trial, the state made sure that despite all the evidence to the contrary, every witness in the case twisted their stories to line up with his. Mazraani told the jury they know the real story because they know his motive as indicated by the changes of the witnesses’ stories, their demeanors and the lack of consistency. Mazraani explained that each of those elements should give them reason to doubt, but when taken together, they should be left with no doubt.
“I’m asking you to set things straight. I’m asking you to find John Angeline not guilty of each and every count,” said Mazraani, concluding his argument.
Carver stood to address the court saying, “Let’s get one thing clear from the very beginning, something that is true. John Angeline, the man right here in front of you, the person who is accused, touched his stepson’s penis when he was 15, when he was 16, when he was 17. That’s not in dispute. This trial was not about proving that he touched his penis because that was very easy to prove. It’s about why he did it.”
Carver said that listening to the defense’s accusations of how the prosecution corroborated testimony, it was necessary for him, as the state’s attorney, to reintroduce himself to them and explain to them why he was there and what he was not there to do.
“I represent the state of New Jersey,” Carver said. “I work for the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s office. I am here representing the state. I am bearing the burden of proof.”
Raising his voice, Carver indicated that if anyone thinks for one second that the prosecutor’s office manufactured testimony, twisted people’s words in efforts to obtain an invalid conviction, they were incorrect.
Carver explained that they prepare witnesses and do not pull them off of the street unknowingly and say just get up there. There’s nothing wrong with preparing witnesses, he added, but the idea that his team did something wrong in the preparation was unacceptable, saying that witnesses promise to abide by the oath to be truthful and answer to the best they can remember.
The prosecutor went on to say that Angeline was touched by his stepfather in places that children are taught that are private and people are not supposed to touch there, adding that the touching was proven by the defendant’s own words.
Carver posed to the jury the question of why a grown man would “stroke a teenager’s penis,” saying that he could never imagine a time when that action would not be sexual since that area is mainly used for waste release or sexual behavior.
“We don’t walk around and shake each other’s penis’ to say hello,” added Carver. “The bottom line is there is no reasonable explanation than that it was sexual.”
Carver said that no reasonable person would say that the touching was anything but sexual in nature and said he had presented credible, convincing evidence that Angeline touched the boy’s penis and testicles.
The prosecution also addressed allegations by the defense that stated “a mother would have known” if her son was being molested. Carver addressed that point by saying, when Angeline’s wife walked past the bedroom and saw them lying together under the covers, she didn’t know what was going on. She saw a man who “loved her boy, ” and felt she made the right choice in marrying him. Regarding the recorded conversation played for the jury, Carver said that she just wanted to hear Angeline say it didn’t happen, that he loves her son.
Carver also addressed the defense’s claim that the boy would not call Angeline to record the conversation with police because he did not want to, instead, Carver said the boy could not because he was emotionally unable to. Carver added that whether it is in a report or not, the emotional state of a teenager who had just told his parents that he had been molested for years would be remembered by police and everyone present at the time.
“From the state’s perspective, the boy is the target of a crime, a victim,” Carver said. “It’s our position that he was victimized.”
He further explained that the boy loved his stepfather, never using the term “predator or saying anything negative.”
“If he was lying, why wouldn’t he use negative terms?” posed Carver. “He was a kid who thought there was something missing in his life, a dad.”
Carver explained that the boy felt a void in his life that Angeline fulfilled, but exploited. He said the boy was a loving stepson who saw his mother happy, his sister happy and looked up to Angeline. He started to think it was ok, it was their “bond.”
In response to the defense’s allegations of inconsistencies of time frames for the sequence of events that occurred, Carver said that he didn’t keep a journal to document, “Today is the first day my stepfather fondled me, got me erect.”
Carver painted the picture of the defendant as a controlling individual who took every opportunity to manipulate the situation. Carver described the massages saying Angeline would move his hand up and work his way to his groin.
“That’s not consent,” he said. “Under the law, it can’t be consent. It’s never consent when someone convinces you it’s okay.”
He explained that the boy wanted to have the massage, but then Angeline started with inappropriate touching. Carver said that it was an exploitation of his position in his stepson’s life adding, “Under what circumstances is that not sexual?”
Carver also addressed the grooming that was described throughout the trial, saying that Angeline introduced grooming to his stepson, saying, “It was another opportunity for Angeline to touch him.”
Then the prosecution explained why the original police statement was only 17-minutes long and the testimony was much longer during the trial, saying that he had asked many more questions to gain as much detail as possible so that the jury would have as much information as possible.
“You should not be surprised that the questions were more detailed,” said Carver. “It just means he was asked more specifically. Inconsistency doesn’t mean unbelievably.”
Carver went on to say that Angeline took the opportunity in the car to notice his erection and touch his stepson, adding that Angeline could have ignored it, but he drew attention to it and wanted to touch him. Carver said that it could not have been for any other reason than for sexual intent.
He went on to talk about the moments when Angeline’s stepson went to the support group at his college and first realized that what he thought was normal his entire high school career, was not, and could be causing residual anger issues. Carver said that something “clicked” when he read the message, “Were you sexually abused as a child?”
Carver explained when Angeline said it was “their secret, their bond, it was just an excuse for Angeline to put his hand in the boy’s pants to feel the skin of his penis and testicles for sexual intent.” Carver described Angeline as a controlling man, who wanted to have control over his stepson so that he could touch him.
“He didn’t want it interrupted,” said Carver. “He didn’t want anyone to know.”
In reference to the audio recording, Carver said, “This was a man who was used to being in control, who is losing that control.”
Carver said that on the recording Angeline admitted to touching his stepson on his genitals, but turned it around saying, that they were just playing a game.
When Carver spoke about Angeline’s use of the word “cuddling,” he said that it is an odd choice of words when you are touching someone’s genitals, adding, “every reasonable person would think that was wrong. There’s no innocence here.”
Carver referenced the audio recording saying that Angeline’s focus on his stepson’s erections, noticing his “hard-on” and commenting on his testicles, “nice balls.”
“He wanted to be able to think that he gave him that erection,” added Carver.
Carver went on to say that the fact of the situation is that John’s hand was on his stepson’s penis. “How does an adult get into that situation?”
“The only fair conclusion from all the testimony is that there was a sexual intent,” Carver said to the jury as he closed. “The touching was for sexual gratification. That’s the only explanation.”
The jury was read the jury instructions by the judge and the charges before they went into deliberation, reviewing the elements the state must prove, which were outlined in the indictment.
On the afternoon of Nov. 14, the jury sent the judge a note with questions. In the note, they expressed that they wanted to hear the audio recording (4C) again of Angeline’s conversation with his wife. They also asked if they could see the transcript and wanted to see the actual statement of Angeline’s stepson to police made on March 1, 2015.
Defense had argued early in the trial against having the transcript of the recording admitted into evidence, saying that there were numerous errors. The audio of the defendant was difficult to hear in many places, leaving room for interpretation, so the Jimenez said no to their request for a transcript. The stepson’s statement to police was also not allowed because only testimony about police statements would be admissible.
The recording was played for the jury once again. At the point in the audio when the mother said, “I trusted you with everything that I had,” the defense stood and requested a side bar. White noise was turned on while they spoke, however, the audio continued to play as the jurors leaned in closer to the speakers. Angeline’s wife left the courtroom crying at that point, followed by a member of the Middlesex Country victim’s support team. The stepson’s biological father went out to check her, followed by her son.
At that moment, Mazraani, who was still in the sidebar he had called, asked for a mistrial because she had left the courtroom, possibly influencing the jury. Jimenez decided to set up a camera in another courtroom and no longer allow the family to stay in the courtroom, adding that he would rule on the mistrial at another time.
For the duration of deliberations, the family and friends watched any questions or calls to the courtroom from another floor. The judge added that when the final verdict was read, only the stepson could be in the courtroom with his victim advocate. The family had to would watch via live stream from the floor above.
On the second full day of deliberations, Nov. 19, the jury again had a question.
“What is the legal definition of sexual conduct pertaining to endangering the welfare of a child?” asked the jury in a note sent to Jimenez.
After hearing from the defense and prosecutor, Jimenez carefully considered the answer and responded that there is not a definition of sexual conduct in criminal code and that the phrase “sexual conduct” is what was alleged by the state and disputed by the defense.
At 12p.m. on the same day, the jury had another question.
“Is sexual gratification a necessary component of sexual conduct?” asked the jury. To which the judge replied that sexual gratification is an element of endangering a child. He went into the allegations made by the state saying that sexual conduct means intentional touching for the purpose of sexual gratification.
By nearly 4p.m. on the same day, the jury sent a note to the judge stating that they could not reach a unanimous decision on the charges, what should they do? Jimenez said he would basically read them the charge about the deliberations and send them home to come back the following day.
At that point Mazraani moved for a mistrial “on the grounds that they have deliberated enough.”
“The question is very simple,” said Mazraani. “The question in this particular case is whether the touching or the conduct was sexual in nature and whether it was for gratification and/or arousal purposes.”
Jimenez denied the motion for a mistrial, saying that they had several interruptions the day before and had to listen to the 4C again, so this was actually their first full day of deliberations. He felt they had not had enough time to deliberate.
“Here’s what I’m going to tell you to do,” said Jimenez, addressing the jury. “First, I’m going to tell you as jurors that it’s your duty to consult with one another and to deliberate to reach an agreement…I remind you that each of you must decide the case for yourself, but do so only after an impartial consideration of the evidence with your fellow jurors.”
Jimenez reminded the jurors that they are judges of the fact. He then dismissed the jurors for the day, asking them to return the following day. Shaking their heads and talking to one another, the 14 jurors left the courtroom appearing frustrated and tired.
Today found no resolution. Just before lunch, the jury sent the judge a note saying that they still could not reach a verdict, what should they do. Unable to agree on any of the charges, Jimenez sent them back to the deliberation room with one question to answer, “Do you feel that further deliberation would be beneficial or do you feel you have reached the point where further deliberations would be futile?”
The jury took less than ten minutes to return with the decision that they were at an impasse. The judge dismissed the jury, thanking them for their service.
Based on the jury’s inability to come up with a verdict, the judge declared a mistrial, ordering the defendant to return to court on Jan. 6 at 1:30p.m., at which time the prosecutor will declare whether he is seeking to retry the case or not. At that time, Jimenez will address the defense’s request for a mistrial based on the “conduct of the family,” referring to when the mother left the courtroom during the replay of the recording of her conversation with Angeline.
Nearly five years since Angeline’s arrest, the case remains ongoing. Everyone left the courthouse without resolution after years of waiting. Proceedings will reconvene in the new year when the decision to retry the case will be made. If so, a trial date will be set and jury selection will begin again.