The girl and her mother would typically walk the dog together through their Maryland apartment complex, but the morning of May 12, 2015, the 12-year-old asked to head out on her own for “a little bit of responsibility.”
The self-described “helicopter mom” reluctantly agreed, figuring she could keep an eye on her from their eighth-floor balcony.
But as the girl returned home with her little terrier, she encountered a stranger in the lobby. He jumped into the elevator with her, grabbed her by the hair and shoulders and forced her to perform a sex act.
Two years later, a jury ordered Oakcrest Towers to pay the girl’s family $8 million in damages, finding that security lapses at the apartment complex allowed the assault to occur. The award issued this month is believed to be one of the largest against a property management company over apartment security in Prince George’s County, said Timothy Maloney, the attorney who represented the girl’s family.
“We’re hoping that this verdict will be a wake-up call to get improved security at the apartment complex,” Maloney said. “The jury took a very strong stand in terms of tenant safety.”
The girl’s mother said in an interview that she believes the man — who had been previously banned from the property — got into the building through an unsecured door. The Washington Post generally does not identify victims of sexual assault and is not naming the mother to protect the girl’s identity.
“They dropped the ball in a lot of places,” the mother said. “I don’t even know where to begin.”
Scott Management, the property management company that operates Oakcrest Towers, declined to comment on the jury award. But in court filings, the company said it was a “bold assertion” to assume that apartment management had a duty to protect tenants from crimes perpetrated by trespassers in common areas.
Oakcrest Towers, which describes itself on its website as “Resort style high-rise living,” is a sprawling apartment complex that sits on more than 35 acres just outside the District in Forestville.
The family had been living in one of the apartment buildings for about nine months when the attack occurred, according to the girl’s mother.
After waving up to her mother, who was standing at the balcony that morning in May, the girl walked back to the apartment with the dog to get ready for school.
That is when she encountered Isiah Bogan of Forestville in the lobby.
Bogan exposed himself and grabbed the girl’s hand to force her to touch him, according to court documents. She tried to flee into the elevator to escape, but as the elevator doors began to close, Bogan stuck his foot into the opening and forced his way into the elevator before assaulting the girl.
The man fled, and the girl ran off the elevator to her family’s apartment.
“ ‘I’m 12 years old, and there’s no way I should be sexually assaulted,’ ” the mother remembered her daughter screaming after the incident.
Bogan eluded authorities for days. He later pleaded guilty to a second-degree sex offense and is serving a 10-year prison sentence.
Maloney said Oakcrest Towers and Scott Management had a history of shoddy security in the high-crime community.
The man who assaulted his client had previously been banned from the property, Maloney said, but somehow managed to make his way back.
Police had been called to the apartment complex more than 5,000 times in the past five years, including for a homicide and the rape of a woman in a laundry room by a stranger, Maloney said. Yet Oakcrest Towers failed to fix broken door locks, offer adequate security or maintain video surveillance that would prevent trespassers from entering the community, Maloney said in court filings.
“If you have a history of crime, it tells you the deterring measures are not working and you need to do more,” Maloney said.
In its court filings, the company asserted that the doors to the building were functioning securely and that it was not responsible for the actions of a third party on its property.
The company also said the man could have entered the building any number of ways.
“He could have come in through the front door or any of the side entrance doors simply by piggy backing on the entry of another resident,” the company wrote in court filings.
Oakcrest Towers also said the 5,000 calls to police was misleading evidence. The reports included “calls wherein the caller just hung up the phone and spoke with no one, so that there is no accurate tally of how many of those calls led to a verified complaint, how many took place near the property, and how many took place inside of the buildings.”
The family has since moved from Oakcrest Towers.
After the assault, children at the girl’s school found out about the incident and teased her, according to her mother. And the once honor roll student saw her grades slip.
The girl, who is now 14, is slowly improving emotionally and academically, her mother said. But the trauma of the attack remains.
“I know she is going to need a lifetime of therapy,” her mother said. “I told her she is strong and . . . I know she has been through a lot.”