The supposed rape of a 14-year-old girl — allegedly by an undocumented immigrant student and his friend — was thrust into the center of the debate over illegal immigration.
However, now prosecutors have dropped the charges, saying the evidence in the case doesn’t back them up. That comes weeks after Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, had highlighted the case as an example of why Trump’s immigration policies were needed.
On May 5, prosecutors dropped the sexual assault charges against the two men. “Prosecutors said evidence does not support sexual assault charges. Montano faces pornography and distribution of pornography charges. Sanchez also faces distribution of pornography charges,” reported NBC Washington.
A student who has an ICE detainer against him is accused in the brazen daylight rape of the teenager during school hours in a Rockville High School bathroom stall.
Henry E. Sanchez Milian, 18, and Jose O. Montano, 17, were both 9th graders at the Maryland school despite their ages. (The photo above is of Sanchez Milian.) That’s also provoked parental anger.
The case became a trend on Twitter and part of the national conversation when Donald Trump’s Press Secretary brought it up at a press briefing on March 20. The state’s governor also expressed outrage; the school superintendent told The Baltimore Sun that school officials want to “change the conversation” from immigration.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Two Suspects Had Been in the United States for Less Than a Year but Now Prosecutors Say the Evidence Doesn’t Back up the Rape Allegations
Although prosecutors now say there is not evidence to support the accusations, the claims inflamed the community because of their graphic nature. According to Fox 5, “Attorneys for Jose Montano asked a judge at a Friday morning hearing that the first-degree rape and first-degree sexual offenses charges against their client be dropped, and the judge granted that request. Montano is being released immediately. Maryland state prosecutors say after reviewing video and speaking to witnesses, the facts do not support the rape charge.”
The men had both been in the U.S. for less than a year, and ICE has a detain hold on Sanchez for, according to the Washington Post, a “pending alien removal case.”
According to The Washington Post, Sanchez is “a native of Guatemala who arrived in the United States about seven months ago” and has a “pending ‘alien removal’ case against him.”
The Washington Post reports that Border Patrol in the United States picked up Sanchez seven months ago, determined he “illegally entered the country, and issued a notice to appear in immigration court.”
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has now lodged an immigration detainer on Sanchez,” Fox 5 DC reported.
According to Fox News, “a Border Patrol agent stopped Sanchez-Milian in August 2016 in Rio Valley Grande, Texas, and determined he’d entered the country illegally from Mexico. Sanchez-Milian was ordered to appear before an immigration judge, but the hearing had not yet been scheduled.”
Montano came to the United States eight months ago, the Post reported. Because he’s a minor, ICE won’t reveal details of his immigration status, but Sanchez is a citizen of Guatemala, according to WTOP.
The details of the offense are contained in disturbing court documents. You can read them below, but be aware they are very graphic.
2. Court Documents Described a Graphic Rape by Both Male Teenagers in the Bathroom but Prosecutors Now Say the Evidence Doesn’t Match the Charges
Part of the reason the case so enraged the community: The extremely graphic and disturbing details that prosecutors now say are not backed up by the evidence.
Court documents said that, on March 16, an officer began an investigation into an allegation of rape of a minor. The victim is called Victim A in the disturbing and graphic report.
The report says Victim A is a 14-year-old female who attends Rockville High school in Rockville, Maryland.
“Victim A told school staff that she was sexually assaulted by two boys in the school bathroom,” the report says.
“She was in the school hallway when she met with the two other students later identified as Jose Montano and Henry Sanchez Milian. She knew Montano as a friend and did not know Sanchez,” the court documents say.
They say Montano and the victim engaged in conversation and then he allegedly asked the victim for a hug. They passed the bathroom, and Montano is accused of asking her for sex, but she refused. He asked again “more persistently and pushed victim A into the boys’ bathroom,” the court documents allege.
In the bathroom, the two suspects are accused of pushing the girl into a bathroom stall and raping her multiple times and ways, including sodomizing her, while speaking to each other in Spanish. At one point she “cried out in pain” and was told to calm down, the records allege.
Blood was recovered from the bathroom, the report says.
3. Sean Spicer Said the Case Was an Example of Why Trump Is Pursuing Tougher Immigration Policies
On March 20, Spicer thrust the case into the national debate when he spoke about it at a press briefing.
“Let’s remember the human side of this, that this is a tragic event that no child, no person, no parent should ever have to deal with,” Spicer said. “School should be a place where a parent puts their child on a bus or drops them off or sees them off and knows that they’re safe.”
The suspects were charged with “first-degree rape and two counts of first-degree sexual offense in the violent assault of the female student,” reported WTOP, which said the older suspect is charged as an adult.
4. Both Men Were Arrested at School & Parents Are Upset by How the Case Was Handled
According to WTOP, Sanchez and Montano were arrested at the school. Fox 5 DC said the sexual assault was announced on a school loudspeaker and surveillance video in the hall captured the men.
“Although the two suspects are 17 and 18 years old, they were enrolled as freshmen because they both arrived in the United States only a few months ago and were taking English as a Second Language (ESL) classes,” Fox 5 DC reported.
WTOP reported that the school sent a letter home to parents.
“Ensuring a safe, secure and welcoming learning environment for all of our students is our top priority,” the letter said, according to WTOP. “Our staff remains vigilant in the monitoring of our school each and every day. Please remind your child that if they believe they are a victim of an assault or see something inappropriate, they should immediately tell a staff member.”
The school held a parents’ meeting to address the concerns.
According to the Baltimore Sun, Jack Smith, superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools, said, “Some try to make this into an issue of immigration. We would like to change the conversation.” Smith said, “We serve every student who walks in the door. It is not only the right thing to do, it is the law,” according to the newspaper.
5. The Charges Carry the Possibility of Life in Prison & the Governor Expressed Outrage
The state’s governor expressed outrage on Facebook, writing, “The State of Maryland is calling on Montgomery County to immediately and fully cooperate with all federal authorities during the investigation of this heinous crime. The public has a right to know how something this tragic and unacceptable was allowed to transpire in a public school.”
The case has also renewed debate over sanctuary city laws and sparked protest outside the school. According to The Washington Examiner, “Maryland Democrats this week took a major step to becoming a ‘sanctuary state'” voting 83-55 “to OK the Maryland Law Enforcement and Trust Act. Generally, it would bar state and local law enforcement from helping federal immigration officials seeking illegals, including requests to detain inmates for deportation.”
NBC News quoted Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office spokesman Ramon Korionoff as saying, “These are very serious allegations carrying a life sentence. The potential of life in prison would be available as we prosecute these individuals.”
The attorney representing Montano wants the younger suspect moved to a juvenile facility, according to NBC. Police have not released a mugshot for Montano because he’s underage.
In denying the suspects bond, a judge “said they were dangerous and flight risks due to the fact they have only been in this country for a couple of months. Montano came to the U.S. from El Salvador,” reported WUSA9.