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Damascus student-athletes released on bond after facing first-degree rape charges
By Kathleen Stubbs @kathleenstubbs3
ROCKVILLE —Four 15-year-olds charged as adults with first-degree rape are back on the street after District Court Judge John Moffet released them on an unsecured personal bond of $20,000.
The charges came after a brutal sexual assault with broomstick handles on four Damascus High School junior varsity football players last month.
Montgomery County Police arrested and charged four of the suspects with first-degree rape, under recommendation of the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s office.
County Police initially charged all five suspects with second-degree rape and attempts to commit second-degree rape.
According to court documents, police charged the suspects for sodomizing a victim with a wooden broom handle, and conspiring to and attempting to perform the same act on three other alleged victims.
Deputy State’s Attorney Peter Feeney said in court that each of the four victims were freshmen.
Feeney and other assistant state’s attorneys in the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office reviewed hours of recorded interviews and conducted their own interviews before concluding they should charge some of the suspects with first-degree rape instead, State’s attorney John McCarthy said Monday.
“As a matter of law, once we determined that we felt that these were first-degree rapes, we had to charge these boys as adults,” said McCarthy, after the bond review hearings.
McCarthy said the suspects charged as adults in the alleged sexual-assault case may appeal to have their clients returned to the juvenile justice system. He believes all four suspects will do so.
Police charged Jean Claude Abedi and Will Smith of Clarksburg, Kristian Jamal Lee of Germantown and Caleb Thorpe of Gaithersburg, with first-degree rape along with conspiracy to commit rape and attempted first degree rape.
A fifth suspect remains charged as a juvenile.
The alleged sexual-assault incident is not the first time one of the suspects found himself in the juvenile justice system.
Daniel Wright, representing Abedi , said the 15-year-old had been in the juvenile justice system once before, but the allegation had been dropped.
“I wouldn’t expect that that would be a big part of the case,” Wright said about Abedi experience in the juvenile justice system. “The question before the court was whether they did this crime, not whether they did something a year-and-a-half ago, two years ago.”
David Felsen, the attorney for Smith, said his client had never been disciplined – either in school or in the juvenile justice system.
“[Smith] has no disciplinary history of any kind,” Felsen said Tuesday.
Wright said he supported the release on bond.
“I think the judge [Moffett] made the correct decision,” Wright said on the steps outside District Court, following his client’s arraignment.
Under state law, a suspect charged with first-degree rape, if convicted, could face life in prison.
Feeney asked Moffett during the bond reviews to amend the charges. The four suspects now each have one charge of first-degree rape, three charges of attempted first-degree rape and one charge of conspiracy to commit rape, McCarthy confirmed.
Moffett said in court he was releasing the four students charged as adults to their families on bond because he believes they are not at risk of failing to appear in court.
“The court is aware of the seriousness of the conduct alleged by the state,” Moffett said.
Moffett directed the suspects not to communicate with each other or any of the victims and restricted them from setting foot on the Damascus High School campus.
The five suspects and four victims are members of the Damascus junior varsity football team.
Damascus High School Principal Casey Crouse addressed that issue in a letter to parents and students following the incident, which apparently occurred Oct. 31 in the freshman boys’ locker room at Damascus High School.
An episode of the Netflix series ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ mirrors the events seen at Damascus High School on Halloween. In the final episode of the second season, a character named Tyler is raped with a broomstick by several boys in the school bathroom.
Last weekend Montgomery County Police spokesperson Sgt. Rebecca Innocenti said police received a call about several brooms hanging on campus and near Damascus High School at 7:04 p.m. Sunday.
Police found a handful of brooms, with one hanging from a tree.
“There may have been possibly some removed before we responded,” Innocenti said.
“The officers did assist in removing the brooms, understanding the associated concern and the impact that [the brooms in the area] would have on the community,” said Innocenti.
Crouse sent a letter to Damascus High School parents informing them about the brooms Monday.
A Damascus High School father, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Crouse’s promptness in contacting parents about the brooms was an improvement from the communication parents received after the alleged sexual assault incident.