The supposed rape of a 14-year-old girl at Rockville High School in Maryland by illegal immigrants had enraged parents, inflamed the community, and was even highlighted by Donald Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer as a reason for his immigration policy.
However, now prosecutors in Maryland are dropping the sexual assault charges against the two men – Jose Montano and Henry Sanchez – after the evidence in the case did not back up the girl’s allegations, according to NBC Washington.
It’s a surprise twist in a case that inflamed the community especially because authorities initially claimed the girl was attacked in a school bathroom during the middle of the day as school was in session. In addition to the men’s immigration status, the fact they were placed in 9th grade at ages 17 and 18 also upset parents.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Prosecutors Say the Evidence ‘Does Not Support Sexual Assault Charges’
The supposed rape of the 14-year-old girl — allegedly by an undocumented immigrant student and his friend — was thrust into the center of the debate over illegal immigration.
On May 5, prosecutors dropped the sexual assault charges against the two men, whom authorities now say were both in the United States illegally. “Prosecutors said evidence does not support sexual assault charges,” reported NBC Washington.
NBC5 reported that “Montano’s attorney told FOX 5 last month that sex between his client and the 14-year-old girl was consensual. In court, he told a judge the alleged victim exchanged sexually explicit text messages with Montano before the incident agreeing to have sex with him.” The attorney had disputed allegations that the men were MS13 gang members.
The allegations involved a supposed 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. 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.
2. The Two Suspects Had Been in the United States for Less Than a Year & Still Face Pornography Charges
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.”
However, reported NBC, “Montano faces pornography and distribution of pornography charges. Sanchez also faces distribution of pornography charges.”
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 arrived in 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 supposed offense were contained in disturbing court documents. You can read them below, but be aware they are very graphic.
3. Court Documents Described a Graphic Rape by Both Male Teenagers in the Bathroom That Prosecutors Now Say They Can’t Prove
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.
4. Sean Spicer Highlighted the Case as 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. At the time, the problems in the case were not publicly known.
“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.
5. Both Men Were Arrested at School & Parents Were Enraged Over 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.
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.