Second Damascus High Rape Case Moved to Juvenile Court
Four football players accused of locker room hazing
Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy addresses reporters following Friday's ruling.
The case against a second teen charged with rape after a football team hazing incident at Damascus High School will be moved to juvenile court, a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge decided Friday.
The “premeditated group sexual attack,” as juvenile court Chief Carlotta Woodward called it, occurred Oct. 31 when five football players allegedly sexually assaulted four other players with broomsticks after practice.
Kristian Jamal Lee, 15, was one of four players charged as an adult with two counts of first-degree rape, two counts of attempted first-degree rape, and two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree rape, but his case will be tried in juvenile court offering a lesser maximum sentence and more chances for rehabilitation, Judge Steven Salant said at Friday’s hearing.
Two other players charged as adults with rape are also asking that their cases be moved to juvenile court.
Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said in a news conference that his prosecutors hadn’t developed an approach for the next two defendants.
“Right now we’re in the process of analyzing what to do in each of the individual cases,” McCarthy said. “We’ve not decided exactly what we’re going to do.”
McCarthy stood by the original charging process, elaborating on the events that allegedly took place Halloween night and why the charges were increased a few weeks after the arrests. He said he instructed law enforcement to charge the suspects with second-degree rape knowing that first-degree charges would put them in adult court. Given the circumstances of the case, McCarthy wanted to give investigators time to assess the situation, hence the charging changes.
“I wanted to take the time to make sure that information was accurate and that under the law, these were first-degree rapes,” McCarthy said. “Once we completed that and used those 30 days of investigating, we brought the charges and they were brought in adult court, because they were dictated by law to go there.”
In moving a case from circuit to juvenile court, Maryland law requires that age, mental and physical condition, amenability to juvenile treatment, nature of the offense and participation and public safety be considered.
Salant ruled four of the five factors weighed in favor of transferring the case, acknowledging the “horrible” nature of the crime but deciding the entirety of the case suggested a move to juvenile court.
“I would have no hesitation in denying the request to transfer,” Salant said. “But then I wouldn’t be doing what I’m required to do in following the law, so I must look a the other factors also.”
Defense attorney James Downs, of Downs Collins P.A., representing Lee, said it would be “disingenuous” to argue the nature of the crime weighed in favor of waiver to juvenile court, but that the defendant’s alleged limited involvement in the incident should be taken into account.
Lee admitted in an interview with police he pushed some of the victims and “egged on” some of the alleged events, according to Montgomery County police Detective Dana Williams, one of the lead investigators. But while witness testimony corroborated his presence during each alleged instance of rape or attempted rape, the prosecution struggled to concretely ascertain whether Lee actively partook in the alleged “broomings.”
The allegations center around the narrative of sophomores attacking freshman, but Lee is a freshman as well, Downs said. He added Lee could’ve easily been a victim, with one of the co-defendants saying, “Oh you thought you were safe” and grabbing Lee, who fought him off.
Salant delivered his decision following a hearing last week which ended with a shift to juvenile court for co-defendant Will Smith.
The judge agreed with a Department of Juvenile Services report in favor of transfer regarding age, amenability and public safety, then spurned their decision regarding physical and mental condition after hearing witness testimony from a psychologist. Evidence of amenability to treatment was the driving force behind the ruling, based on how the defendant had handled therapy, interviews and pretrial services, the judge said.
“It’s compliance,” Salant said. “If somebody is going to be compliant, that is certainly a step in the right direction in showing amenability to treatment.”