SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - A Superior Court hearing for a former South Plainfield teacher accused of sexual assault was dramatically interrupted last month when the victim's mother made a plea for the judge.
"We've been living with this for four years," the mother said. "It's been constant delays. All I'm asking for is fairness for this, please," she told Superior Court Judge Joseph Rea.
More than a dozen supporters of the victim were also in the courtroom. The defendant, John Angeline, 44, had apparently been told he did not need to attend the hearing.
After the hearing, several of the victim’s supporters voiced their displeasure with the judge and the defense attorney, particularly noting the discussion over picking a date for the trial and the judge's comments to the victim and his mother.
“It was quite an unexpected experience as the defendant was not present and we were told by his attorney that he was in the Midwest,” said Amanda Salmon. “There was no questioning or admonishment by the judge on why the defendant left town and no penalty for him not being present at the scheduled hearing, but there was admonishment when chuckles or sighs were heard in the gallery.”
According to Salmon the gallery that was full and the judge even pointed out there were more people in his courtroom than usual. “I sat there dumbfounded how the judge showed little compassion for a mother's plea for fairness when setting a date for trial, begging that after 4 and a half years it would come to an end soon,” said Salmon. “In my opinion the judge allowed the attorney to fumble around dates trying to prolong closure on the case until a suitable date was agreed upon. At no point during my time in court did I feel both parties were on equal playing ground, more considerations were being given to the defense than the victim. Perhaps an impartial jury is what is needed to settle the case.”
It was during the court hearing that the mother stood with the victim of repeated assaults that authorities alleged Angeline, 44, committed over a two-year period, starting when the victim was a juvenile.
Rea, showing his irritation with the interruption, told the mother and the victim that he was trying to set a trial date for the case, but there were many cases on the trial list.
"Keep your mouth shut and sit down," Rea told the mother and her now adult child who acknowledged being the victim of the assaults.
“I really couldn’t believe how he spoke to the victim and his mother,” said Christine Torres. “I was completely taken aback by the judge. I felt his attitude and demeanor were crass, unprofessional and insensitive given the situation and charges. I walked out of that courtroom in complete shock.”
Angeline was originally expected to plead guilty under an agreement negotiated with the prosecutor's office.
In a hearing one week earlier, on June 21, Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Carver told Rea that he was prepared to offer a deal that did not require Angeline to serve any time in prison and would not subject him the restrictions for Megan Law's requirement to register as a sex offender. At that hearing, Carver ask Rea for another week to complete negotiations.
In court on June 28, Carver said his office now wants the agreement to include Megan's Law requirements and long-term supervision for Angeline.
Defense attorney Joseph Mazraani, who represents Angeline, emphatically reminded Rea that the prosecutor had previously agreed to offer a deal with no Megan's Law requirements.
With no plea agreement, Rea said the case had to be scheduled for trial and he and Carver and Mazraani discussed possible dates in October. However, as Mazraani explained schedule conflicts in October and November, he suddenly asked the judge to stop the laughing coming from the audience
Rea called to people in the audience, directing the people who were laughing to stand up, and the victim and the mother rose to their feet, resulting in the confrontation and the mother's plea of fairness.
After the mother and the victim sat down, Carver explained that the victim and the family were showing "a little frustration."
Rea quickly responded, "I'm a little frustrated as well."
“I have never witnessed such a display of anger from a judge that was not warranted and it was clearly directed at the victim and the victim’s family,” said Jill Pavel. “From the start of the proceedings the judge made it clear to all in the courtroom that he was displeased a plea deal had not be resolved. He rambled out loud that he was annoyed, he would have to involve the State Police there because of letters he had received this week.
According to Pavel, there was no yelling from anyone in the galley. “Everyone collectively groaned at the excuses that were being given to the judge from the defense attorney as to why his client was not in the court room and why it was not convenient for him to be in court prior to 2020. The judge was verbally demeaning to the victim and the victim’s mother. The mother pleaded with the judge to put the trial on the calendar for this year, she stated that the court proceedings have gone on for 4.5 years and her son is suffering as a result.”
The case was set for trial on Oct. 22.
“This was crazy, I have never seen this before, the Judge seemed to go out of his way to be nasty and rude to survivors of sexual assault,” said Fred Marigliano.
Defense attorney Joseph Mazraani was approached after the hearing, but declined to comment on what occurred in the courtroom.
Angeline is accused of sexually assaulting a youth at various locations over a period of more than two years – beginning when the victim was 15 years old.
Angeline was arrested in March 2015 and charged with sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child, along with criminal sexual conduct.
Police began their investigation after the victim told relatives of the alleged assaults, who then contacted authorities, authorities said.
Angeline was an English teacher at South Plainfield High School, but authorities said none of the assaults occurred at the school.
South Plainfield school officials said Angeline was suspended from his job with pay in 2015.
In June 2017, Angeline’s teaching certificates were suspended by the New Jersey Department of Education's State Board of Examiners on the grounds that his ‘potential disqualification from service in the schools of this state because of his indictment for various sexual offenses provide just cause…’
Earlier this year Angeline resigned from his teaching position at the high school.
Editor’s note: TAPinto South Plainfield was only able to request a quote from the defense attorney while covering this story since no one else was present in the courtroom on behalf of Mr. Angeline.