Criminal charges can have major penalties for defendants in Maryland. For example, many offenses carry mandatory sentences upon conviction. The negative consequences can be further compounded when the accused are immigrants. State prosecutors earlier this month dropped rape charges against two immigrant teenagers in a case that received attention from the White House and international community.
Prosecutors charged a 17- and an 18-year-old with sexual assault of a 14-year-old high school girl in the school's bathroom in March. According to her accusations, one of the suspects pushed her into the bathroom after they were talking in the hallway and she refused to have sex with him. The suspects allegedly pulled her into a stall and raped her as she cried for them to stop.
One of the suspects denied having sex and said that he went into the bathroom to tell jokes. The other defendant, after initial denial, admitted having sex with the girl.
Prosecutors reviewed text messages and reportedly discovered a possible agreement between one of the suspects and the girl to engage in sex. The girl also apparently sent lewd images to one of the suspects. The defendants' attorneys claimed that the sex was consensual and referred to video of the suspects and the girls walking into the bathroom together and that the victim's accounts were inconsistent.
Prosecutors dropped the rape case against the defendants at a hearing over bond. They told the defense attorney that the charges against his client would be dropped one day earlier but expressed the possibility of a child pornography charge.
The case received attention from the White House and activists after it was disclosed that the defendants came from Central America and entered this country after being detained briefly at the border. There were demands for the resignation of the school superintendent, police were called to protect the school and a barrage of emails, phone calls and text messages were sent to the school system.
State legislators referred to this case while denouncing a bill that would have restricted cooperation between police and immigration officials which was later defeated. The immigration consequences for these teenagers is currently unknown.
Legal representation is important to protect rights but especially in cases that receive notoriety. An attorney can help assure that rights are protected and prosecutors are held to their legal burden.
Source: The Washington Post, "Rape charges to be dropped against immigrant teens in Md. case," by Dan Morse and Ann E. Marimow, May 5, 2017