In a case that has gained international attention and debate about illegal immigration, prosecutors have dropped sex offense and rape charges against one of two immigrant teen boys. One boy is scheduled in court on Friday morning.
Attorneys for the two defendants contends that the sex acts involved in the case were consensual, and that text messages and surveillance videos do not bear out the 14-year-old girl’s accusations that she was pushed from a hallway and into a restroom at Rockville High School on March 16. She claimed that the two suspects took turns assaulting her in a stall while she tried to flee.
In the weeks after the case became public, prosecutors gave notice that they had run into challenges to corroborating the events described by the girl to Montgomery County Police detectives. Henry Sanchez Milian, 18, and Jose Montano, 17, were arrested and have been the focus of parents who are concerned for the welfare of their children in Marylands schools, where scores of migrant children have been placed. The two suspects entered the United States illegally months ago and drew heated comments from the White House.
According to the Washington Post Attorney Andrew Jezic, counsel to Sanchez Milian, said while charges against his client have been dropped, prosecutors told him they would be pursuing a case for possession of child pornography him. Jezic said that the pornography charges stem from lewd images allegedly sent by the girl to Montano, who then forwarded them to Sanchez Milian’s cellphone. Jezic remonstrated with prosecutors, saying that they are engaging in “selective prosecution of elective promiscuity.”
Montano has been charged as an adult in the rape case. His attorney, Maria Mena, said that she believes that prosecutors will bring child-pornography charges against him. She denies that a rape took place and said that sharing pornographic images among teenagers is common. Mena said she wants the prosecutors to “make this whole case go away.”
Montgomery Police Chief Tom Manger said on March 22, “This was a brutal attack,” and added, “I am confident that we have a strong case.” White House spokesman Sean Spicer was also prompted to denounce what he called a “horrendous, and horrible, and disgusting” crime.
Montano came to the country from El Salvador, and Sanchez Milian from Guatemala. After being detained at the US/Mexico border, they were then permitted to live with relatives, and then enrolled in Rockville at a ninth grade level. “Part of the reason that the president has made illegal immigration and crackdown such a big deal is because of tragedies like this … Immigration pays its toll on our people if it’s not done legally, and this is another example,” Spicer said.
Parents and demonstraters went to county government offices, and bashed school policies and federal immigration practices, while demanding the resignation of the school superintendent. Police were called out to provide security at the school. State legislators denounced “sanctuary” legislation that would have limited cooperation between local police and federal immigration authorities. The legislation was defeated weeks later.
When federal immigration officials looked into the immigration status Sanchez Milian’s father, Adolfo Sanchez-Reyes, they concluded the father was in the country illegally and placed him in custody. His immigration case is pending, said his attorney, Himedes V. Chicas. The immigration consequences for the two suspects remains unclear.
Defense lawyers contend that before the incident took place, Montano and the girl exchanged explicit text messages and images about having sex in the school. According to the lawyers, video from school cameras showed the pair walking together into the bathroom at the time of the incident. They say the girl’s account of events was not consistent as the investigation progressed.
“At no point did the girl express any reluctance with any sex acts,” said Jezic. “From the night before, she actively planned a sexual encounter.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Herdman told a judge on March 30 while bond was being set that further evidence was being discovered daily. Some of it, she said, bolstered the girl’s accusations and some did not. Text messages between the suspects, she said, demonstrated that the suspects showed they had at a minimum planned to commit a crime.
“This was clearly a conspiracy between this defendant and the co-defendant to get this victim into that bathroom and rape her and commit other sexual assaults against her,” Herdman said in court.