In a case that has generated a political firestorm, a Virginia juvenile court judge found sufficient evidence during a trial Monday to sustain charges that a teen sexually assaulted a classmate in the girls’ bathroom of a Loudoun County high school in May.
The judge’s finding is the juvenile court equivalent of a guilty verdict in other courts.
The case generated local and national attention after the parents of the girl assaulted in May said the charged youth was “gender fluid,” prompting renewed backlash against a policy in Loudoun County schools that allows transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity. That policy was adopted after the May assault.
Authorities have not commented on the youth’s gender identity and it did not become an issue Monday in court. During the hearing, the 15-year-old victim in the first case testified she had consensual sexual encounters with the defendant on two occasions in a girls’ bathroom at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn. On May 28, she said, the two arranged to meet again and the youth threw her to the floor and forced her to perform sex acts.
The case also has sparked anger from parents who have questioned why the teen was allowed to attend another school while awaiting trial in the May assault. It has prompted the head of Loudoun County schools to embark on major reforms to the district’s disciplinary procedures to prevent a similar occurrence.
It also has become an issue in the Virginia governor’s race, where in recent days Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin has called for an investigation of the Loudoun County School Board and demanded more police in schools in response to the incidents.
On Monday, the teenage victim of the Stone Bridge assault testified that she and her attacker had agreed to meet up in a school bathroom around 12:15 p.m. on the date of the assault. She testified they had not explicitly discussed having sex beforehand.
The teen testified she arrived first and chose to go in the girls’ bathroom because the two had always met in the girls’ bathrooms in the past. When the boy arrived, the teen testified, he came into the handicapped stall she was in and locked the door.
The two talked, before the girl testified the boy began grabbing her neck and other parts of her body in a sexual manner. She testified she told her attacker she was not in the mood for sex, but he forced himself on her.
“He flipped me over,” the girl testified. “I was on the ground and couldn’t move and he sexually assaulted me.”
The attack only stopped when someone came in the bathroom and startled the defendant, the victim testified. The girl testified that a second sexual assault occurred a little later. The judge found there was sufficient evidence to find the defendant had forced the girl into two sex acts.
The Washington Post generally does not name victims of sexual assault and is not identifying the girl or her parents. The Post also generally does not identify defendants charged as juveniles.
The defendant’s attorney William Mann said in his opening statement that the encounter between the two teens was consensual, just like the ones that had occurred on two previous occasions.
“They discussed sex regularly,” Mann said. “The encounter was just like it was before.”
The defendant did not testify during the trial, but prosecutors played interviews he gave detectives investigating the case during which he acknowledged “messing up” and said he did not intend to perform one sex act with the victim and said he stopped once he realized he was hurting the girl.
The defendant initially told detectives the second sexual act did not occur, but later said it may have happened briefly and accidentally when a knee-length skirt he was wearing got caught on his watch as the pair were fumbling around in the bathroom stall.
The two teens had met about a month-and-a-half before the attack and became friends, the girl testified. The teens were not in the same grade, but shared friends in common.
Loudoun County Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Barry A. Zweig said in court that the teens had “sexually charged” conversations on the social media app Discord in the days leading up to the assault.
Zweig said the boy repeatedly asked the girl to engage in a particular sex act, but she rebuffed him each time. The day before the assault Zweig said the victim had been hospitalized because of a health condition that made her weak and the defendant “utilized her physical helplessness” to take advantage of her.
The same youth also has been accused in an Oct. 6 alleged sexual assault at Broad Run High School in Ashburn, authorities have said.
In an Oct. 7 news release, the sheriff’s office outlined the allegations, saying a 15-year-old male student had “forced the victim into an empty classroom where he held her against her will and inappropriately touched her.”
The family of the victim in the Stone Bridge High School assault said they are gratified by the outcome of the case.
“No one should have to endure what this family has endured, and now their focus is completely upon their daughter’s health and safety as she progresses forward with her life,” the family said in a statement.