Judge reverses decision: Teen convicted of Loudoun Co. high school sexual assaults will not go on sex offender registry

The teenager convicted of two assaults at separate high schools in Loudoun County, Virginia, will not have to register as a sex offender after a juvenile court judge reconsidered her initial ruling.

Instead, the now-15-year-old — who was found guilty of two counts of sodomy in a May 28 incident at Stone Bridge High School and a separate incident on Oct. 6 at Broad Run High School — will remain on supervised probation in a locked juvenile treatment facility until his 18th birthday.



On Jan. 12, Judge Pamela Brooks placed the teen on probation and placed him in a juvenile rehabilitation center until he turned 18 and agreed with the prosecution to put the teen on the adult sex offender registry.

Loudoun County Commonwealth Attorney Buta Biberaj argued that it was for the safety of the community and made an out-of-ordinary request on the grounds that the teen had already been arrested for the May 28 assault at Stone Bridge High School and was on electronic monitoring when he committed the Oct. 6 assault.

Defense attorneys argued that prosecutors failed to provide a written motion that they would seek to have the teen placed on the registry before Brooks made her initial ruling. The judge agreed with that, but provided prosecutors a chance to file a written motion and argue for the registry sentence, Thursday morning.

Biberaj said placing the teen on probation in a locked facility, paired with being required to register as a sex offender, “would keep him safe — he’d know where he can go and cannot go, and also keep the community safe.”

In reference to the teen being 15 with a still-developing brain, Biberaj said, “I can’t rest on it being immaturity.”

The teen’s probation officer, Jason Bickmore, opposed forcing him to register as a sex offender, saying studies show teenage sex offenders required to register actually have a higher rate of re-offending. He said the aim of the juvenile justice system is rehabilitation, not punishment.

Biberaj did not dispute that requiring the teen to register would have consequences when he tries to get a job. “Will it stifle his successes? Very possibly.”

Biberaj requested the teen be required to register until he turned 30.

The teen had a trio of lawyers: William Mann, Caleb Kershner — who also is an elected member of Loudoun County’s Board of Supervisors — and Jonathan Monroe.

Kershner said the teen is being penalized and scrutinized because his case was at the center of “a national media outcry.”

The case featured heavily in now-Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s campaign, and he signed a day-one executive order calling for an investigation into how the incident was handled.

Kershner provided details in his questioning about Loudoun County Public School’s handling of the case, in which the school system transferred the boy to Broad Run High School after being arrested for the first assault at Stone Bridge High School.

Prosecutors could not bring the boy to trial quickly, as they were waiting for evidence to be processed, so the boy was transferred. In Kershner’s cross examination, the probation officer said the boy knew of the accusations and charges when he transferred schools.

In his questioning, Kershner mentioned the boy was transferred because of the decision of the school system’s Title IX officer, inferring the responsibility of Mark Smith, who was replaced in the position last week after an unreleased investigation from the school system about its own handling of the two sexual assaults.

In his closing arguments, Kershner described the teen as remorseful, saying he has been “cheated” by the “failure of the system.” He argued the previous ruling came as a result of the high-profile nature of the case.

“We are setting him up for failure,” Kershner said. “We’ve never concentrated on [the boy] — we’re not even giving this young man a chance.”

In announcing her decision, Judge Brooks said: “This court made an error in my initial ruling. The court is not vain enough to think it’s perfect, but I want to get it right.”

She noted the case was highly scrutinized: “Perhaps this will provide some additional information for the national conversation,” citing studies that “adolescent brains don’t stop developing till age 27.”

The judge ordered the teen to be in supervised probation in a locked juvenile facility until his 18th birthday, have no contact with the victims or their families. And ”I decline to grant the commonwealth’s motion,” to require the teen to register as an adult sex offender.

Outside the courtroom, the father of the Stone Bridge High School victim swore at the parents of the teen suspect and their attorneys. He has been critical of the school system’s handling of the case — especially in allowing the teen transfer to a second school — and previously vowed a lawsuit.

WTOP’s Zeke Hartner contributed to this report.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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