A 15-year-old boy accused of raping fellow members of his Maryland high school football team in the school's locker room will be tried as a juvenile, moving the case out of adult court, a judge ruled Friday.
The teen is one of five boys charged for alleged rapes of fellow players on the Damascus High School junior varsity football team last fall. Four victims were stomped on, laughed at and sexually abused with a broom in what the defendants called a hazing ritual, prosecutors said.
Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Steven Salant cited Maryland law in issuing his decision Friday afternoon. Alleged crimes committed by juveniles should be treated differently from those by adults, as children sometimes don't realize the consequences of their actions, he said.
The teen's defense attorney, David Felson, praised the ruling.
"The juvenile venue was a more appropriate place for the resolution of the case," he said.
News4 does not name suspects charged as juveniles.
On Oct. 31, 2018, the suspects targeted their smallest teammates, who they thought wouldn't fight back, police said. The suspects entered the locker room while the victims were changing for practice, investigators said.
It wasn't clear if there was an adult in or near the locker room at the time.
After the teens were charged, McCarthy objected to the use of the word hazing to described the alleged attacks.
“I’m offended by the term hazing,” he said. “It’s not hazing. These are crimes, and I would caution anyone to refer to this as hazing. These boys were victims of criminal acts. They were not victims of hazing, they were victims of first-degree rapes.”
Three other 15-year-old defendants still are charged as adults for the alleged rapes: Jean Claude Abedi of Clarksburg, Kristian Jamal Lee of Germantown and Caleb Thorpe of Gaithersburg. Another juvenile, whom police did not name, remains charged as a juvenile.
Thorpe faces the most serious charges: four counts of first-degree rape and four counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree rape.
The other three teens previously charged as adults each were charged with two counts of first-degree rape and two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree rape. It wasn't clear what charges the teen charged as a juvenile faced.
The four teens previously charged as adults were jailed, released on $20,000 bond and ordered to stay away from the high school and their alleged victims.
Montgomery County State's Attorney Kevin McCarthy said the cases will be handled separately, on their own merits.