Charges Dropped Against Teen in Rockville Rape Case
Jose Montano had been accused in alleged attack involving a 14-year-old freshman at Rockville High
Rockville High School
via Montgomery County Public School
A district court judge dropped rape charges Friday morning against the 17-year-old student accused of raping a freshman girl at Rockville High School in March.
Judge James Sarsfield made the decision during a felony dismissal trial at the Montgomery County District Court in Rockville after prosecutors said a review of evidence led them to dismiss the charges of rape against Jose Montano.
"After a painstaking investigation and review of these matters, we have concluded that the facts of this case do not support the charges originally filed in this matter," Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy said at a Friday morning press conference. "Due to the lack of corroboration and substantial inconsistencies from the facts that we have obtained from multiple sources since the filing of the original charging document, the original charges cannot be sustained and prosecution is untenable on those charges."
Montano was charged as an adult and in the reported rape of a 14-year-old girl in an incident in a boys bathroom during school hours March 16. Another student, 18-year-old Henry Sanchez Milian, is still charged with with first-degree rape and two counts of first-degree sexual offense. McCarthy said no announcement on the status of rape charges against Sanchez Milian will be made until next week.
Andrew Jezic, an attorney for Sanchez Milian, told Bethesda Beat he expects the rape charges against his client to also be dropped.
The judge ordered Montano, who appeared in court, to be immediately released. However, he is still being processed and may face deportation proceedings, Montano's attorney, Maria Mena, said.
The reported sexual assault in March had set off intense public debate about immigration, which reached the White House, as both Montano and Sanchez Milian are undocumented immigrants, from El Salvador and Guatemala, respectively. Anti-immigrant rhetoric flooded into MCPS from across the nation, as some questioned the school system for accepting Sanchez Milian and Montano as students. State and federal law requires the school system to accept all students regardless of immigration status.
Montgomery County School Board President Mike Durso, MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith, State's Attorney John McCarthy, County Executive Ike Leggett, and Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger stand behind Ramon Korionoff, public affairs director of the State's Attorney's Office, as he introduces the press conference. Of these officials, only Korionoff and McCarthy spoke and they did not take questions. Credit: Joe Zimmermann
Sanchez Milian has now been charged with possession of child pornography, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, McCarthy said. The child pornography charge is related to photos that Sanchez Milian had on his phone of the 14-year-old girl. Mena said Montano shared with Sanchez Milian nude photos and explicit video that the girl had sent him.
Prosecutors would not comment on child pornography charges against Montano because of his status as a juvenile, but McCarthy said the matter would be taken to juvenile court. Charges have not yet been filed, according to court records.
Attorneys for Montano disparaged the State’s Attorney’s Office for possibly pursuing child pornography charges against their client, calling it “egregious” and questioning a “double standard” of charging Montano with possessing or distributing explicit images and video and not also charging the girl who sent them.
In her initial conversation with police, the 14-year-old girl said she knew Montano as a friend and did not know Sanchez Milian, according to court documents. She described the two male students as confronting her in the hallway and pushing her into a boys bathroom, where they took turns raping her as she repeatedly told them to stop. Prosecutors with the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office earlier argued that Sanchez Milian and Montano conspired together to plan the attack.
Defense attorneys questioned this narrative. Attorneys for Montano said the girl agreed in a text conversation the previous day to have sex with him in the school bathroom. In the conversation, she also admitted to having previous sexual contact with Montano that was consensual, attorneys said.
On Friday, Mena said these text messages as well as footage from school security cameras was critical in dismissing the charges. The footage shows that the encounter was consensual, she said.
“If you look at the school footage you will be able to see her running across the hallway to meet up with our client,” Mena said. “She goes downstairs; she walks to the bathroom; they’re making out. She was not pushed into this bathroom; she walked into this bathroom. And that’s why I say the state did the correct thing.”
An attorney for Sanchez Milian previously said his client tried to “attain assurances” from Montano that the encounter would be consensual.
Attorney Maria Mena was followed by a mass of reporters as she walked from the District Court to the Circuit Court, where the press conference was held. Credit: Joe Zimmermann
After Friday's announcement by prosecutors, MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith said he hopes the staff and students can remain focused on healing as a community.
"First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the Rockville High School community, particularly the female student who has been at the center of this," he said in a statement. "While MCPS has no role in investigations, we always fully cooperate with the Montgomery County Police Department and the State’s Attorney’s office. We appreciate our colleagues for their extensive and thoughtful investigation into a matter that has significantly and adversely impacted our entire community.”
Last month, Montano and Sanchez Milian waived their preliminary hearings, allowing the cases against them to continue to trial.
Sanchez Milian is scheduled for a felony dismissal trial May 12.