A Montgomery County judge reaffirmed his decision yesterday to release a 16-year-old gang rapist to live with relatives, rejecting another request from prosecutors that the youth be incarcerated.
Prosecutors had requested the court hearing yesterday to ask Montgomery County District Court Judge Dennis McHugh to reconsider his Sept. 14 decision to release the youth. The judge denied their request to place the teenager in a locked facility in Norfolk that specializes in treating young sex offenders.
Prosecutors argued that the youth, who now lives with his aunt and uncle in Prince George's County, had not gotten the schooling or counseling that the judge had ordered in the week since his release from the maximum-security Charles H. Hickey School in Baltimore County.
In denying the request, McHugh renewed his criticisms that the Maryland Department of Juvenile Justice had failed for more than a year to ensure that the teenager got such treatment at the Hickey School, a state facility operated by a private company. McHugh kept the youth on electronic monitoring and 24-hour adult supervision while living at home.
"I was shocked to find out that Hickey didn't do anything on his treatment program," McHugh said yesterday. "They did absolutely nothing."
The teenager, whose name is not being published because his case is in the juvenile system, was committed to juvenile facilities in July after admitting that he was involved in a March 1998 rape. Prosecutors said he and five other teenagers lured a 15-year-old girl to a vacant Wheaton apartment, where they took turns raping, sodomizing and beating her for three hours.
Three other teenagers, who pleaded guilty to rape charges in adult court, were sentenced to life in prison. The group's alleged ringleader pleaded guilty to first-degree rape and is awaiting sentencing, and another teenager is scheduled for trial next month.
McHugh called the crime "heinous" and "animalistic" but said he had to ensure that the youth was rehabilitated with some psychiatric treatment, even if it had to be outside a secure facility. The judge emphasized that the youth will be out of the juvenile court's jurisdiction in five years, after he turns 21.
On a back courtroom bench, the ponytailed victim sat silently in the audience, her brown eyes growing teary as the judge and the teenager's attorneys discussed how to best rehabilitate her attacker, who sat about 30 feet from her wearing baggy blue jeans and a gray golf shirt.
Assistant State's Attorney Alex Foster, who prosecuted the case, argued that the principal of High Point High School in Beltsville had written a letter to the school board's attorney, asking if there was any legal way to prevent the teenager from attending his school. The school has so far refused to enroll the teenager, and Foster argued that the youth has spent the past week "hanging out" at home without getting counseling.
"It's a recipe for failure," Foster said.
But the teenager's attorneys, Vicky Tyler and Jeff Blumberg, told the judge that the youth had tried to follow the judge's orders since being released. The Prince George's school system could send teachers to his home if he is not allowed at High Point, Blumberg said. The teenager's aunt and uncle have made sure he is with an adult at all times, he added, and they have already had an introductory meeting with a counselor.
"They are on top of him," Blumberg said. "They're doing everything in their power."
McHugh said he would revisit the case at a hearing next month.