Third Damascus High Rape Case Sent to Juvenile Court

Third Damascus High Rape Case Sent to Juvenile Court

Defense lawyer says hazing has 'been going on for years' at school

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Defense attorney Shelly Brown during a news conference following a hearing for a Damascus High School football player accused of rape.

Charlie Wright

The case against a third Damascus High School teen charged with first-degree rape after a football team hazing will be moved to juvenile court after prosecutors did not object to the transfer at a Thursday hearing.

Caleb Thorpe, 15, of Gaithersburg, was charged with four counts of first-degree rape and four counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree rape after other football team players were allegedly attacked with a broomstick in a locker room on Halloween night.

A judge ordered the case sent to juvenile court and the adult records  sealed.

Two of the four students charged as adults already have had their cases moved to juvenile court, over the objections of prosecutors.

After considering the analysis of the two previous cases given by Circuit Court Judge Steven Salant, along with the recommendation of the Department of Juvenile Services and reports from two medical professionals, prosecutors decided not opposed the transfer, Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said in a news conference after the morning hearing.

In juvenile court, proceedings are usually closed to the public and an emphasis is placed on providing services to help the accused.

“This is not an escape,” said Shelly Brown, Thorpe’s attorney, at a news conference following the hearing.

Brown said Thorpe should have been charged under the state’s anti-hazing statute, which carries misdemeanor charges.

Salant said he still had to consider the findings and reviewed the five factors that determine transferring a case.

Age, mental and physical condition, amenability to juvenile treatment, nature of the offense and participation and public safety are considered in these matters, based on Maryland law. The juvenile services report stated the nature of the crime and the defendant’s mental and physical condition supported a denial of the waiver, but the other three factors were in favor of a transfer, which was the department’s recommendation.

Similar to the previous two hearings, Salant determined four of the five factors suggested moving the case to juvenile court, acknowledging the nature of the crime is serious and the impact on the victims is severe.

The judge added that Thorpe revealed he had also been a victim of a similar assault as a freshman, a point that Brown addressed after the hearing.

“This is something that’s been going on for years at Damascus High School,” Brown said. “Montgomery County needs to take a better look at their sports programs and do better.”

Brown suggested education and discussion about hazing would benefit county schools, along with better supervision of students while on school property. The school system began an internal investigation into the case in late February.

Salant mentioned a statement provided by Damascus head football coach Eric Wallich that he had heard about hazing at other places during his 20 years of coaching, although not at Damascus.

The three players who have had waiver hearings gave statements they were sexually assaulted in similar fashion when they were freshman.

Salant cited a report from psychologist Susan Lipkins, who wrote a book studying hazing. The judge referenced Lipkins’ analysis about a “certain system where there’s a lack of recognition” about hazing across the country. The “blueprint of hazing” sees victims become bystanders and then participants, who believe it’s their “right and duty” to “pass on the tradition.”

A fourth player is scheduled to be in court next week.

“We are still moving forward on litigating that particular matter,” McCarthy said.

This post was updated to correct a misspelling of Eric Wallich’s name.

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