Gary N. Wilcox admits that some of his TikToks, like one featuring Busta Rhymes lyrics about oral sex, were “inappropriate and not becoming of a judge.”
Two months after a New Jersey judge was hit with a misconduct investigation over TikTok videos in which he lip-synced to Rihanna’s “Jump” and other popular songs, he’s filed his first response — admitting “poor judgment” and “vulgar” lyrics but saying he intended only “silly, harmless, and innocent fun.”
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Gary N. Wilcox, a judge on New Jersey’s Superior Court, is facing potential discipline after it was revealed in June that he had posted pseudonymous lip-sync videos featuring sexually explicit and violent lyrics. One featured a Nas song about a courthouse shooting; another centered on Busta Rhymes lyrics about oral sex; several were filmed in his actual court chambers.
In his first formal response Friday (Aug. 18), Wilcox repeatedly owned up to the mistake — saying he’d intended the videos to be private but acknowledging that “the content of some of his posts was inappropriate and not becoming of a judge.”
“The respondent recognizes that now and with the benefit of hindsight would not have made and posted them,” Wilcox wrote. “Nor will he ever post again.”
But Wilcox also defended himself, saying the lyrics came from songs by “recognized commercial artists” that had been “played on the radio” and could be purchased by anyone — including some that had been “nominated for recognized music industry awards.” Notably, Wilcox also suggested that his use of hip-hop lyrics had been treated differently than it might have been for a different type of music.
“Other genres have generated popular songs by artists who have criminal backgrounds or lyrics about objectionable or even abhorrent conduct,” the judge wrote. “Yet, such artists and songs remain popular. Those who listen to them, sing them, or even lip-sync to them are not adopting any messaging or lifestyle of the artist or song.”
Wilcox was hit with a complaint on June 30 by New Jersey’s judicial conduct watchdog, claiming he had used the alias “Sal Tortorella” to create dozens of TikTok posts over the past two years.
The complaint cited 11 videos that were “inappropriate and brought disrepute to the Judiciary,” including those with “graphic sexual references to female and male body parts” or “racist terms.” Several were allegedly filmed in his personal chambers, and one was filmed walking through the courthouse in his robes.
“By his conduct in posting these and similar videos to TikTok, Respondent exhibited poor judgment and demonstrated disrespect for the Judiciary and an inability to conform to the high standards of conduct expected of judges,” judicial regulators wrote.
In one video, Wilcox mouthed lyrics from “Jump” by Rihanna: “If you want it let’s do it / Ride it, my pony / My saddle is waitin’ / Come and jump on it / If you want it, let’s do it.” In another, Wilcox appeared as “Touch It” by Busta Rhymes played in the background: “While she tryna touch see I was peepin’ it out / She turned around and was tryna put my dick in her mouth / I let her.”
One other video featured Nas’ “Get Down,” a 2002 track that features a lyric about a criminal trial in which a defendant “grabbed a court officer’s gun and started squeezing” and another in which gang members kill a doctor who treated a rival.
The complaint, lodged by the state’s Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, accused Wilcox of violating three different rules governing the New Jersey judiciary, including one requiring judges “to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.” Under state guidelines, his discipline could range from a light reprimand to his outright dismissal from the bench.
In Friday’s response, Wilcox urged the committee to impose only a reprimand. He cited his “unblemished record” prior to the videos, and said the TikTok clips, which had been viewed by only a small number of people, had not caused lasting damage to “the public’s perception of his integrity.” He also said he had faced enough punishment simply by the case being publicly filed against him.
“The public is clearly aware of the embarrassment and humiliation that respondent has been subjected to by the enormous press coverage resulting from the filing of the complaint for public discipline,” Wilcox wrote.
As for the lyrics themselves, Wilcox repeatedly stressed that he had not intended to “endorse any of the artists, their lifestyle or their views.” Referring to the sexually-explicit Rihanna lyrics, the judge said he chose it simply because he had “heard the song and liked the music.”
“The song was posted because of the music and to have fun lip syncing,” the judge wrote. “It was not posted because of any meaning, nor was the post directed anywhere, at anyone or anything.”
Wilcox will face a formal hearing on the allegations, but such a hearing has not yet been scheduled.
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