Because the juvenile hearings have not been opened for the full proceedings, it is not clear whether the fourth defendant faces further deliberations.
It is not known what charges the teen
pleaded to and what punishment or rehabilitation recommendation each of the defendants received from Circuit Judge Mary Beth McCormick.
All of the teens, as of Wednesday, remained students in the county school system but were not attending Damascus or other standard high schools, according to schools spokesman Derek Turner.
The attacks by junior varsity players on other team members on Oct. 31 involved a broomstick and shocked the football-proud community of Damascus.
Among early findings, the school system said the locker room was unsupervised for a 25-minute window during which the assaults were said to have taken place.
The suspects and victims were all 14 or 15 years old at the time of the incident.
In November, four of the teens were indicted, as adults, with one count each of first-degree rape and three counts of attempted first-degree rape. “The defendants’ conduct,” Montgomery County Deputy State’s Attorney Peter Feeney said at the time, “was astonishingly cruel.”
The teens’ attorneys successfully argued to have their cases moved to the juvenile system, citing their ages and their potential to reset their paths before becoming adults.
Maryland court rules allow a judge to use discretion to exclude the public from proceedings involving juveniles who have not been charged as adults. Records in juvenile court are sealed.
The Washington Post asked the court in writing before the hearings to have the proceedings open and attended each hearing to make the request again. The Post was denied access after prosecutors, defense attorneys or both asked the judge to clear the courtroom of anyone not directly involved in each case.
The Post was able to stay long enough at the start of the hearings as cases were called to confirm that they involved pleas or sentencings, which are known as “dispositions” in juvenile court. The Post also learned at a June hearing that one teen pleaded to second-degree rape and attempted second-degree rape counts.
In Wednesday’s case, the request was made by Assistant State’s Attorney Carlotta Woodward, who said closing the hearing would be appropriate given her intent to candidly discuss how the teen victims were affected by the attacks.
Defense attorney Daniel Wright objected and argued for keeping the hearing open. Wright noted the case had been widely covered and continued to draw public interest and that reporters should hear information directly. “I’d rather they be accurate instead of speculative,” Wright said.
McCormick, echoing comments she’d made at previous hearings, said she believed protecting the victims’ and the suspects’ privacy outweighed the public’s access.
“I think it’s in the best interests of the parties involved,” McCormick said before clearing her courtroom.
Among those remaining in court were one of the victims and his parents, and the parents of two other victims.
The 16-year-old suspect was present, as were two members of his family and a psychologist who has worked with the teen.
The hearing began at about 10 a.m. and lasted until just before 6 p.m., with several breaks. The suspect, his supporters and Wright exited the courthouse afterward.
Wright declined to comment, as did prosecutors.
Juvenile court records are sealed, but earlier records while the cases were in adult court were open to the public. According to those documents, detectives and prosecutors alleged that one group of Damascus junior varsity team members was suiting up for the last practice of the season in the freshman area of the locker room when a second group came in, turned off the lights and guarded the door. One by one, four boys were wrestled to the floor and assaulted, according to the earlier hearings and court records.
Each of the suspects had different roles in the attacks, the earlier hearings and court filings alleged.
“Whether it was pushing, punching, stomping, holding down, tackling or wielding the broom,” Feeney said during an adult court hearing last year, “the crimes could only have been committed with the active participation of each defendant.”