New Jersey Judge Investigated Over Profane TikTok Videos
A New Jersey judge who used a pseudonym to post TikTok videos of himself lip-syncing lyrics from popular rap songs may now be in trouble.
On Monday, the court system said it had filed a complaint against the Superior Court Judge Gary N. Wilcox, who will now face a hearing that could lead to discipline ranging from a reprimand to dismissal from the bench.
The complaint argues that Judge Wilcox’s decision to post the TikTok videos showed “poor judgment and demonstrated disrespect for the judiciary and an inability to conform to the high standards of conduct expected of judges.”
Judge Wilcox, who presides over criminal cases in Bergen County, was admitted to the New Jersey Bar more than three decades ago and has been a Superior Court Judge since 2011. His lawyer, Robert Hille, said that he was reviewing the complaint and would be filing a response.
“I don’t think that at the end of the day anybody is going to believe there was any desire to do any harm here,” Mr. Hille said. “Hindsight is 20-20.”
According to the complaint, he used an alias, “Sal Tortorella,” to post roughly 40 publicly available videos on TikTok from 2021 to March 2023. Eleven were deemed inappropriate by the judicial conduct committee.
Several were recorded in his court chambers and included songs that contained “profanity, graphic sexual references to female and male body parts, and/or racist terms,” according to the committee.
In one video cited in the complaint, which appears to have been removed from TikTok, Judge Wilcox recorded himself wearing a “Beavis and Butt-Head” T-shirt while walking through a courthouse as “Get Down” by the rapper Nas plays in the background. The complaint noted that the song contains explicit lyrics about a criminal case and a courtroom shooting, as well as drug and gang references, including the killing of a doctor who treated a rival gang member.
Another video showed Judge Wilcox in a car, wearing a T-shirt bearing the words “Freedom of Speech,” while mouthing lyrics about spilling cognac on a “$200 suit.”
Some of the videos appear to have been recorded in a judge’s chambers in front of law books.
Many of the songs cited in the complaint are from mainstream musicians. One video included “Jump” from the artist Rihanna; others featured “Sure Thing” by the R&B singer Miguel and “Touch It” by the rapper Busta Rhymes.
Alexander Shalom, a senior lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, noted that there was often a distinction between conduct that an employer can mandate and speech that was constitutionally protected.
“Judge Wilcox is entitled to due process,” said Mr. Shalom, who has interceded in other prominent free-speech cases in New Jersey. “As he goes through that process, there will be lots of significant issues raised about free speech and free expression and what actually does impugn the stature of the judiciary.”
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