ROCKVILLE – A circuit court judge ruled on Feb. 15 that he would grant a reverse waiver to juvenile court for a suspect in the in alleged first-degree rape incident at Damascus High School in October.
Circuit Court Judge Steven Salant said in court that defendant Will Smith,15, does not possess the maturity of a grown adult.
“We know that a child of that age—that their consciousness is different from an adult,” Salant said. “They don’t think about consequences, and they think that they’re invincible.”
County Police, under the recommendation of the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s office, charged four 15-year-old Damascus High School students with first-degree rape with a broom in November.
Police wrote in a statement of charges that the four high school sophomores were involved in a violent incident involving a wooden broomstick against their younger teammates in the freshmen locker room. The incident occurred shortly after school on Oct. 31.
Fifteen-year-old Smith is one of the four students whom police charged as adults with first-degree rape. Salant ruled that the jurisdiction of Smith’s case be transferred to the juvenile justice system.
Smith’s defense attorney, David Felsen, said in court that juvenile court is not a “pass” for a defendant.
“The case certainly isn’t over,” Felsen said during a subsequent press conference, later adding, “There still needs to be a trial.”
Smith was expelled from Damascus High School in late-2018 due to the charges in the locker room incident.
Felsen called clinical psychologist Frederick Oeltjen, who conducted a survey on Smith’s situation and mental condition, as a witness. Oeltjen said on the record that Smith told him he, too, had been a victim of sodomy by a broom, or “brooming,” as a freshman at Damascus High.
The Department of Juvenile Services had recommended that Salant have the case transferred to juvenile court.
Salant said that a judge is not required to follow a Department of Juvenile Services’ recommendation in the context of a motion to transfer.
However, “those reports are very influential in what the court may do,” Salant said.
Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said after the ruling that the prosecution and the State’s Attorney’s office respect Salant’s ruling.
“The judge ruled against us,” said McCarthy, later adding, “We accept and respect the ruling of the court as we always (do) – under requirement by law.”
Along with transferring the case to the juvenile justice system, Salant ruled that exhibits in the case be placed under seal.
McCarthy said Smith’s case does not have a bearing on how the other three defendants’ motions to transfer to juvenile court will fare.