Students who raped classmate were allowed back at school
Victim's father files complaint against judge after remarks at sentencing
Felsen The family of a 15-year-old Gaithersburg girl who was raped in January thought the worst was over when three of their daughter's classmates at Col. Zadok Magruder High School were charged with the crime.
But two of the three boys returned to Magruder in August. The girl moved to Nevada before the beginning of the school year to live with family because she had been harassed at school after the incident, her father said.
And at the boys' trial, the judge's remarks so incensed the family that the father filed a complaint against him.
"[The judge] painted a picture of her being an absolute tramp," her father said. "...Just because she got drunk at a party doesn't give them the right to do what they did."
The boys left school after their arrest in February, and were charged as adults. As a condition of their bond, they were ordered not to go back to Magruder, Assistant State's Attorney Ryan Wechsler said. In July, the case moved to juvenile court, and the boys pleaded "involved" the equivalent of a guilty plea in the juvenile justice system.
New conditions were imposed after the boys pleaded in July, which did not include restrictions on attending Magruder, said Neil Jacobs, the attorney for the oldest boy. The oldest boy, who only needed one credit to graduate at the time of the incident, graduated and is a student at Montgomery College, Jacobs said.
The case ended at a disposition hearing in Montgomery County juvenile court on Sept. 30. The three boys were sentenced to probation. Adults charged with first-degree rape face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
"This was a difficult case from the beginning," said David Felsen, attorney for one of the boys. "It is a first-degree rape, but it's as close to not being a first-degree rape as one can get."
The victim and the boys are not being named because they are juveniles. The victim's father is not being named to protect the victim.
Montgomery County Public Schools spokeswoman Kate Harrison refused to comment on the students or discuss what the school system's policies are when a student is awaiting sentencing for a violent crime against another student.
Montgomery County police, the school system and prosecutors have a memorandum of understanding that lays out communication guidelines when violent crimes occur on school property or when a student is charged with certain crimes on or off school grounds. Police are required to notify the school system when a student is involved in a serious incident off of school grounds that could impact school operations, according to the MOU.
The State's Attorney's Office reports students charged with certain offenses, such as violent physical or sexual attacks, to the superintendant after the case is resolved, spokeswoman Emily White said.
The victim's father said Magruder's principal was not informed that the boys were charged with rape. Principal Leroy Evans referred comment to Harrison.
The case ended at a disposition hearing last month, and the victim's family said hearing her character questioned in court was like re-living that night.
The girl had a 0.25 blood alcohol content level after drinking at a party at a friend's apartment on Jan. 3 and was too drunk to walk or stand, Wechsler said at the hearing. She has no memory of most of the party, Wechsler said.
Two of the boys, then ages 16 and 17, carried her into a bathroom, where the third boy, then 16, was waiting, Wechsler said. They undressed her, had sex with her and left her on the floor, she said.
In a videotaped victim impact statement, the girl said she is now too scared to sleep alone and shared a bed with her sister or mother every night until she moved.
The three boys were charged as adults in February. The cases were moved to the juvenile system, and each pleaded involved to first-degree rape in July, Wechsler said. At the September disposition hearing, Judge Steven G. Salant ordered all three to be on electronic home monitoring along with other requirements such as completing sex offender treatment and, for the two boys who have not graduated, attending school.
The school system has its own set of procedures on where to place students who have been found responsible for a crime, Wechsler said. She did not know where the two boys will be going to school or what the procedures are.
The other two attorneys declined comment. The boys' families declined comment after the hearing.
Salant, who described the rape as "horrific," only discussed the girl's behavior the night of the party, not the boys', at the hearing. The girl and two friends decided to have a party with no adult supervision and were "chugging alcohol," he said, and some in attendance were engaging in sexual activities. The victim was drunk and "engaged in risky and provocative behavior" like sitting on people's laps and talking about "hooking up," he said.
"I'm telling you this not to excuse behavior, but this was a disaster waiting to happen," Salant said. "...There was a dynamic at work here. There were things going on here. It doesn't make the respondents any less worthy of blame but what it does mean is I have to determine whether what we have here is sexual predators or respondents who acted horribly. ...They did not get that when a girl is intoxicated and presents herself in that manner you do not take advantage."
The victim's father said he filed a complaint against the judge with the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities last week because of what he described as inappropriate comments he made about his daughter, such as saying that she had been "provocative and exhibited sexual behavior towards the male attendees" and that "she may have underlying issues of her own." The girl's mother, sister and 10 friends of the family who were at the hearing also wrote letters about Salant's comments, saying that he seemed more concerned with parents who leave their children unsupervised than holding the boys accountable for their actions.
Salant declined comment through a spokesman.
Russell Butler, executive director of the nonprofit Maryland Crime Victims' Resource Center Inc., said the judge crossed a line.
"Even if all these things were true, there is no excuse for these juvenile respondents to brutally rape a victim," Butler said. "For a court to blame the victim is clearly unconscionable."
Federal law permits crime victims to change schools but does not protect those who wish to remain at their school without having to face the perpetrator, Butler said.
Remarks by County Judge Durke G. Thompson in 2000 while sentencing a man for sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl that "it takes two to tango" resulted in national outcry and a warning from the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities, which dismissed a complaint alleging bias against women.
Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly spelled the name of attorney David Felsen of Rockville.