This is Part 7 of my continuing coverage of the legal plight of Bruce Aristeo of Camden, New Jersey originally begun with a relationship breakup and civil dispute with Jody Raines and subsequently escalated to the Camden County (NJ) Prosecutor’s Office.
(NOTE: Because I have written numerous articles on the Jody Raines – Camden County Prosecutors vs. Bruce Aristeo Legal Saga, there is now an article index I refer new readers to read and catch-up. I highly recommend you read the articles in chronological order to get the full, complete story with the proper context.)
I now uncover the court transcript where the then-Judge Lee Solomon of Camden County Superior Court outrageously affirms Bruce’s $75,000 bail. The public defender tried unsuccessfully to reduce the bail to a reasonable amount so that Bruce could get out of jail earlier. As a result, Bruce sat in jail for six months before he was released with an ankle monitor.
In the court transcript, Assistant Public Defender, Robert Kail, unsuccessfully argued to reduce Bruce’s $75,000 bail. The central debate was how “inflammatory” and “sexually provocative” Bruce’s videos were and how Bruce’s “multiple violations” of the “Indefinite” Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) allegedly made him a high flight risk. I have posted the links to those so-called “inflammatory” and “sexually provocative” videos. You can see for yourself how “inflammatory” and “sexually provocative” they were.
For reading convenience, I have pasted below the selected core text from the Court Transcript (BOLD is my emphasis):
MR. KAIL: Your Honor, if I may. We’re seeking a reduction in bail. Mr. Aristeo’s bail is currently $75,000 cash or bond. Mr. Aristeo is charged with third and fourth degree offenses, one for a violation of a Restraining Order. And the essence of this case, Judge, is that it kind of, I think bail was set at a very high amount because I don’t think the court had -
THE COURT: It sure was.
MR. KAIL: Yes it was, Judge, and I don’t -
THE COURT: I set it. I do remember the case, yeah.
MR. KAIL: And I’ll tell you why, and I understand why Your Honor set it, but I don’t think Your Honor was fully aware of the circumstances, nor was the State until we brought it to their attention. Your Honor, the allegation here is that Mr. Aristeo posted a number of, according to the State, allegedly inflammatory videos about the alleged victim in the case, including her name and her identifying features, her business, etc. But what the State wasn’t aware of and we brought it to the State’s attention was that the alleged victim also posted what would be considered by a jury, I would think, a very highly counter inflammatory video in response. This is a highly sophisticated person who’s in the internet marketing business. And without the -
THE COURT: Meaning your client?
MR. KAIL: No, the victim.
THE COURT: The defendant. Oh.
MR. KAIL: The victim.
MS. COGAN: Both of them, Judge.
MR. KAIL: Both of them, Judge. Both of them. And what the State was not aware of, nor was Your Honor aware of, is that this lady, although she did not mention Mr. Aristeo by name, mentioned the type of activity, and I’m not an Internet person per se but I understand by people showing and teaching me that the person who is supposedly going around on the internet looking for things is called a troll and she had a video -
THE COURT: I’m very unsophisticated, so go ahead. I know. I always thought a troll was a little doll with long hair, but okay.
MR. KAIL: Well me too, but anyway I’m learning Judge so, and I have my younger folks teach me this stuff.
THE COURT: Look for a good ten or twelve year old and they can usually explain it to you.
MR. KAIL: Anyway, so apparently, and without being overly graphic what she does is in this very sophisticated video, which the prosecutor has seen as well because we brought it to her attention, is she takes a part of the troll’s anatomy and she feeds it to her dog, Rugar the dog, okay? Rugar was the issue in Mr. Aristeo’s video, some of his videos.
So this is a highly sophisticated lady. Now I realize we’re dealing with a reasonable person standard, and I understand the prosecutor is probably going to say that a reasonable person might consider this weird and might consider this threatening conduct. However, I think once a jury sees this, I think a jury will have great difficulty, at least as to that aspect, in reaching a conviction against this gentleman.
So, here is a man without a record. I have been to the jail to see him. He has been offered probation and get of jail and he said no, I’m innocent, I want to go to trial. So he is being held, and I know the prosecutor says she’s going to indict him next week, I understand that, but I’m asking the court not to defer to another court a date when the man is indicted but to say $75,000 on third and fourth degree offenses for a man who is not, you know, there’s no evidence of anything physically violent that I’m aware of at this point or anything of that nature. There is a Restraining Order, he does have ties to the community, he is a businessman. He and the alleged victim are both in a sense almost running competitive businesses against each other in their way. And I think that $75,000, I think the top number, as I heard Your Honor say just a few minutes ago, is $12,500 cash or bond. Now, I know the prosecutor made mention that there’s a number -
THE COURT: Well the top number is whatever the judge thinks is reasonable under the circumstances in light of all the criteria that is set forth.
MR. KAIL: Of course.
THE COURT: And there are some extraordinary circumstances in various cases. But I’ll let Ms. Cogan
MR. KAIL: There are, but on the other side, we’re not dealing with a babe in the woods (reference to Jody Raines), Judge.
THE COURT: Okay.
MR. KAIL: And I think that a jury will understand that when they see that, Judge. So he’s going to have -
THE COURT: So you’re arguing the likelihood of success is low.
MR. KAIL: The likelihood of success is not that overwhelming, in my view, okay? And I think that there are a lot of things that having to do with, that will have to be researched in the case, and frankly Judge this is going to take a good long time before it’s ready for a trial because there’s a lot of things that have to be researched involving how the Order was entered and all those different things, that once we get the full discovery from the State, that we’ll be able to explore. Thank you.
THE COURT: Ms. Cogan?
MS. COGAN: Thank you, Judge. As Your Honor is aware, Mr. Kail is referring to bail guidelines. The bail guidelines for a third degree stalking, it caps out at $50,000 cash or bond. Your Honor set bail at $75,000 cash or bond. Mr. Aristeo violated a Restraining Order that he entered into voluntarily over 176 times from January 1st until May 15, 2013, when the State, the prosecutor’s office signed charges against him for stalking and violating the Restraining Order.
In his postings he uses the victims likeness, he has photographs of her, he references her business, he disparages her, as Your Honor is aware. The State provided in the bail, initial bail set, the videos. Mr. Kail raises one video response that the victim posted without mentioning the defendant’s name, she did not reference the defendant’s business. She did that not knowing that the -
THE COURT: Are they mutual Restraining Orders?
MS. COGAN: No, Judge.
THE COURT: Just one against him.
MS. COGAN: She has an indefinite temporary restraining order.
THE COURT: There is none against her.
MS. COGAN: Correct. And he did try to get a Restraining Order against the victim which was denied. This video she also posted prior to her knowing that the State was undertaking basically a very secret investigation. It took us a while to get our paperwork together, to get the search warrant. She was under the impression that she was not going to get any assistance from the prosecutor’s office, law enforcement in her quest, you know, the stalking. So she (Jody Raines) posted that before she even knew we were helping her after she had been subjected to daily, multiple times a day, a barrage of videos ABOUT her, like I said, disparaging her, questioning her mental status. And the court is well aware the stalking statute no longer requires a threat of physical harm or violence. It just requires to cause someone emotional distress.
THE COURT: It doesn’t seem to require that we wait until somebody is hurt or killed.
MS. COGAN: Correct, Judge.
THE COURT: So I do agree with you on that.
MS. COGAN: And in this particular case the video postings that the defendant was posting became increasingly disturbing and increasingly personal.
THE COURT: I think they were part of the court’s, the Certification that was presented to the court at the time the bail was originally set.
MS. COGAN: Yes. And specifically there was the one where he pretended to be eating her dog, her breed of dog sausage patty telling how great they were. And then he posted a subsequent one where he interviewed himself regarding their first meeting and made her out to be, basically a very sexually provocative video, and it was highly disturbing and emotionally distressing to any reasonable person. And the State feels the bail is reasonable as set and the case is scheduled to go before the grand jury on August 7th.
MR. KAIL: Judge if I may just briefly respond.
THE COURT: Okay.
MR. KAIL: What Mr. Aristeo’s point is, and there are things that have to be researched in this case, but what his point is, and I think you heard it from the prosecutor’s presentation, is basically the State is picking and choosing. You have somebody who Mr. Aristeo has counter allegations, he wasn’t given a, an Order wasn’t entered. But there are counter allegations that are going to be brought out in the course of this representation which, you know, the State may take the position now that we’re there to protect him, we’re involved and that’s why she posted it, because she is taking self help.
THE COURT: Hey, I’m not here to hear the case. The jury will be impaneled and they’ll hear the case and they’ll make that decision. I’m here to determine whether the bail is appropriate as set and I’ll consider what both of you said with respect to that, but I attach the greatest weight to the notion that bail is intended to assure that the defendant will appear. The defendant has the kind of respect for the Orders of the court and the requirements of the court and the subpoenas issued under the court’s authority to be here and respond to the court, and the court’s needs, and the court’s Orders, and the court’s dates for hearing.
And in this case we have a defendant who in a very sophisticated way and in an allegedly very outrageous way, repeatedly, over and over and over again, used his level of sophistication to undermine, circumvent and avoid in his mind the requirements and Orders of the court. His conduct as alleged in this case raises an extreme likelihood that he will not honor and that he would fail to respond to a requirement that he appear before the court at any given time. I consider him a high risk of flight and a high risk not to abide by the Orders and requirements of the court with respect either to bail or the need for his appearance in light of the alleged past conduct.
Again, it is frightening that nearly legal representative in this hearing admits they know relatively little about the Internet. And because Judge Lee Solomon knew so little about the Internet, the First Amendment, its exceptions, and how it all applies to Internet speech. he simply assumed because Bruce “violated” the “Indefinite” TRO “multiple” times via YouTube videos falsely assuming that Bruce would also be a high flight risk.
Mischaracterizations of Bruce’s YouTube videos using words such as “inflammatory”, “sexually provocative”, and “multiple violations” of videos ABOUT Jody Raines, all contributed to contribute Judge Solomon’s irrational and disproportionate ruling. What should be frightening to New Jersey residents is that Judge Solomon became Justice Solomon of the New Jersey Supreme Court in October 2014.
Many months later after this hearing (but prior to Bruce’s release from jail), his bail was “reduced” to $50,000. Because Bruce also could not afford that or the 10% bond, Bruce sat in jail for seven months before the State allowed his released with an ankle monitor.
Check back soon, there is still more to uncover regarding the legal saga of Jody Raines vs. Bruce Aristeo and State of New Jersey vs. Bruce Aristeo.
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