A New Jersey judge has removed himself from a sexual assault trial after he lashed out at the victim’s mother for scoffing in the court room, telling her to “keep your mouth shut, sit down.”

Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Joseph Rea on Friday granted the prosecutor’s office motion for his recusal, news site NJ.com reported.

“The court has to err on the side of caution,” Rea said. “The public in general needs to have confidence in the system.”


The recusal comes after an altercation in the courtroom during a June 28 hearing.

Former high school English teacher John Angeline was indicted in 2015 on charges of sexually assaulting a boy for nearly three years, starting when the victim was 15.

The victim was in the courtroom for the hearing when his mother scoffed, the outlet reported.

“What’s the problem back there?” Rea asked the victim’s mother. “Excuse me, if you have enough nerve to make some noise, stand up and be heard. What’s the problem?”

“We’ve been dealing with this for four and a half years, your honor,” she responded. "Four and a half years. And it’s been constant delays and pushbacks.”

Rea then asked who she was. Her son stood as well and told the judge, “We’re the victims, your honor.”

NJ.com reported that the woman and her son had traveled from out of state to attend the hearing. They believed the case was finally coming to a close, but a plea deal had fallen through. 

“All I’m asking for is fairness for this case," she said. "Please. Please.”

Rea told the mother to take the issue up with the prosecutor’s office.

“Because you’re being inappropriate,” he said. “Keep your mouth shut, sit down.”

Several weeks later, the mother spoke about her concerns with a local newspaper and said she did not feel like her son would get a fair chance at justice in Rea’s courtroom.

Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Carver filed a recusal motion earlier this month focusing on whether Rea appeared biased.

Rea said Friday that the the victim and his mother had been “inappropriately vocal.”

“I told them to be quiet,” he said. “I think they took exception to that.”

The judge, who had served on the court since 2003, said that he had no doubts that he could give the family a fair trial but recused himself after the news media reported on the story.

“There was language in the newspaper accounts that concerned me because there were words attributed to the victim’s mother because she felt that she couldn’t get a fair trial, or didn’t think her son could get a fair trial,” Rea said.

The mother told NJ.com after the recusal that  “all we want is fairness and a level playing field. Hopefully this change will bring that.”

Joseph Mazraani, the defense attorney for Angeline, brushed off the motion in a comment to the outlet and knocked the prosecutor’s office for filing it.

“I’m not a person to hold my tongue,” Mazraani said. “I think this motion is B.S.”

“There is a certain bias against criminal defendants,” he continued. “Victims and alleged victims think they can just run the show. Defendants have more rights, a lot more rights, than victims do. Let’s just be clear about that. Nobody wants to talk about that.”

Mazraani said outside the courtroom that the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office was attempting “to gain a tactical advantage over this judge to rule in their favor.”

The Hill has reached out to the prosecutor’s office for comment.