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When 10-year-old Jason Edward Crowell appeared as a defendant on trial for murder before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice John E.H. Stackhouse earlier this year, he had no fear of going to jail — and not just because he was a personal friend of the judge. The mock trial was part of a mentoring program Stackhouse and others at Manhattan Supreme Court joined to help teach city children about the way the justice system works. Crowell, a fifth-grader at Dr. Sun Yat Sen Middle School in Manhattan, played the part of a man accused of murdering a delivery man. Other children took on the roles of prosecutors and defense attorneys. While Stackhouse’s reputation for impartiality is beyond reproach, it is safe to assume in this case he was probably rooting for Crowell’s eventual “acquittal.” Over the past year he and Crowell have formed a close friendship through regular one-on-one mentoring sessions sponsored by Mentoring USA, a national program run by former New York first lady Matilda Raffa Cuomo. “I see him every other Tuesday and occasionally we go to a ball game,” said Stackhouse. “It’s been a nice warm and rewarding relationship. He brightens my day every time I see him.” Over the past year or so, Mentoring USA has made a concerted effort to recruit judges, attorneys and other court employees. In addition to providing the traditional support a mentor relationship brings, the court personnel give the children an inside look into the workings of the legal system. “These kids come from low-income communities where there are many negative situations of interaction with the law,” said Cuomo. “There are many stereotypes on both sides. [Mentoring] helps this interaction to reach another level. It provides a whole different perspective and an understanding.” While other judges and court employees have had varying levels of success with the program, Stackhouse and Crowell are its shining stars. In October, The Mentoring Partnership of New York, a separate organization, recognized Stackhouse and Crowell as a “Notable Pair” at its annual symposium sponsored by Bear Stearns. “Jason won the award, not me,” Stackhouse said. “He’s an outstanding kid, a real go-getter. They gave him $100 and they gave me a plaque.” The two meet every other Tuesday evening at the Rutgers Community Center on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, near Crowell’s home in the Rutgers Houses. At the sessions, the two go over schoolwork and make time to have fun afterwards. “He is a big help,” said Crowell of Stackhouse. “First he helps me with my homework. … Sometimes we do a project and sometimes we get to play basketball or pool.” According to both mentor and mentee, Crowell is usually the one who winds up victorious in the basketball and pool games. He also regularly defeats the judge at ping pong. “I beat him, yeah,” Jason said, adding that the two also work on art projects together. Crowell and Stackhouse also share an enthusiasm for the New York Jets and the team’s running back Curtis Martin. The two have gone to several games together. Things have gone so well between the two that Crowell now plans to follow in Stackhouse’s footsteps and become a judge himself. Told by the judge that he would have to become a lawyer first, Crowell said he would have no problem making a lot of money as an attorney “putting the bad people in jail and letting the good people go.” Stackhouse, who thinks Crowell’s ambition for a legal career was sparked by the mock trial experience, promised to still be in contact with Crowell when he becomes a lawyer. “I’ll stay in touch with him,” the judge said. “We’re friends. … If he wants to be a judge I’ll do my best to help him.”

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