Henry Sanchez Milian, one of two suspects charged in the rape of a 14-year-old girl in a bathroom at a Maryland high school did not do what he is accused of, his defense attorney said Wednesday.
“Based on everything we know, we think he’s innocent,” said Andrew Jezic, who has been retained by Sanchez Milian’s family. “This appears to have been a consensual encounter.”
Jezic said his 18-year-old client is confident he will be exonerated.
An arrest warrant filed against Sanchez Milian and signed by a police detective — as well as a similar warrant against a co-defendant, Jose Montano, 17, who has been charged as an adult — describe a brutal series of sexual assaults inside a bathroom stall at Rockville High School on Thursday morning by the suspects, both 9th graders at the school.
Montano pushed the girl into a boys bathroom and pulled her into a stall as she tried to resist by grabbing a sink, according to the affidavits. Sanchez Milian then entered the stall, according to the affidavit, and the two took turns raping the girl, according to the affidavits, as she cried out in pain and repeatedly told them to stop.
In court Friday, while describing evidence in the case, a prosecutor cited specific physical injuries the girl suffered. The crimes were “the most serious” of sex-assault allegations, said Assistant State’s Attorney Rebecca MacVittie.
“This was a brutal attack,” Montgomery Police Chief Tom Manger said Wednesday. “I am confident that we have a strong case.”
In their arrest warrant for Sanchez Milian, detectives said they interviewed him after the alleged rape. “He initially stated nothing happened,” detectives wrote. “Then changed his statement multiple times and admitted to having sex with the victim with his friend Montano.”
Montano is being represented by Ron Gottlieb, an experienced attorney in the public defender’s office in Montgomery County. Allen Wolf, the head of that office, declined to comment.
Each suspect is charged with one count of first-degree rape and two counts of first-degree sex offense.
The reported rape has made international headlines and become part of the U.S. debate over immigration policies.
Sanchez Milian entered the country illegally about seven months ago, according to immigration officials and Montgomery County District Court records.
He came from Guatemala, according to the court records. Jezic said he was “fleeing from gang threats and gang violence” in his home country. It took him about four weeks to get to the U.S., Jezic said.
“It was a courageous trek,” the attorney said.
Sanchez Milian was picked up Aug. 12, 2016 in the southern tip of Texas by the U.S. Border Patrol, and held by federal officials until Aug. 25, 2016, said Matthew Bourke, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Sanchez Milian was released on his own recognizance, Bourke said.
During conversations with the border control, Sanchez Milian provided the name of a family member living in Maryland, Bourke said. Bourke said that immigration officials could find no known gang-affiliations with Sanchez Milian.
Jezic that his client’s father told him his son was held for closer to 18 days in Texas. The father said he then picked his son up at Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport, and that his father paid for the flight, according to Jezic.
The attorney said Wednesday he couldn’t find any indication that a court hearing on Sanchez Milian’s immigration case has been set. Jezic said that if there is a hearing set, Sanchez Milian will claim asylum because he was fleeing gang violence and threats.
Jezic said he had no indication Sanchez Milian himself was associated with a gang.
Sanchez Milian had arrived in Montgomery County by September, according to court records and to county school officials. He moved in with his father, according to court officials and Jezic. He was enrolled into Rockville High School on Sept. 21, and placed in 9th grade.
Montgomery Schools Superintendent Jack Smith told reporters at a news conference Tuesday night that both suspects had been in a special program for non-English speakers at the high school and not in classes with the victim.
The suspects were unknown to county law enforcement before the reported rape, police officials said.
His family’s retention of Jezic puts Sanchez Milian in the hands of a well-respected criminal defense lawyer. A former prosecutor, Jezic is co-author of Maryland Law of Confessions and an attorney at his firm, Himedes Vladimir Chicas, is chair of the Maryland State Bar Association’s Immigration Law section.
“There has been a rush to judgment,” Jezic said. The significant media attention given to the case, he added, has led to his client being caught up in national political debates.
“I think that he is being used as an unjust scapegoat by the opponents of recent immigration practices,” Jezic said.