Police, school chief: Md. school rape suspects hadn’t been in trouble before

WASHINGTON — The two students charged with the violent rape of a fellow Rockville High School student last week had no criminal records and hadn’t previously been suspended from school, the superintendent and a police captain said on Tuesday.

The two suspects — 18-year-old Henry Sanchez-Milian and 17-year-old Jose Montano — had not had any previous contact with the Police Department as suspects, victims or in any other capacity, said Montgomery County police Capt. James Humphreys at a news conference.

Dr. Jack Smith, Montgomery County Public School superintendent, added that they hadn’t previously been suspended from school.

On March 16, Sanchez-Milian and Montano allegedly raped a 14-year-old girl in a bathroom at the school. Sanchez-Milian and Montano have been charged with first-degree rape and two counts of first-degree sexual offense.

Smith said that the suspects and the girl had no classes together. Humphreys said the victim and one of the suspects knew each other, but couldn’t say whether the attack was random.

Smith said that the rape last Thursday at the school was “a horrible thing for the young woman to have experienced.” He added that the school system would offer her “a great deal of support” and that officials were “very interested in reviewing all the things we do now to make sure nothing like this can ever happen again.”

Smith said there are five security people and a school resource officer at Rockville High School.

“We’re going to look at everything” in the school’s safety plan and “make sure we’ve covered any gaps,” Smith said.

He said repeatedly, however, that the fact that one of the suspects was evidently in the country illegally had no bearing on how the school system treated him, and that the incident wouldn’t change the school system’s policy on such students going forward.

A U.S. Border Patrol agent in Texas last August determined Sanchez-Milian had entered the country illegally from Mexico, Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Matthew Bourke said in a statement. Bourke could provide no information about Montano’s status because he is a minor.

The rape has reverberated outside Rockville. In his daily briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said of the case, “I think part of the reason that the president has made illegal immigration and crackdown such a big deal is because of tragedies like this,” Spicer said.

On Facebook Tuesday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he was “calling on Montgomery County to immediately and fully cooperate with all federal authorities.”

Smith said the public school system serves all the students that come to it.

“It is not only the right thing to do and the good thing to do … it’s also the law of the land,” Smith added, citing Plyler v. Doe, the 1982 Supreme Court case that struck down a state law denying funding for education for children in the country illegally.

The difference in the students’ ages, Smith said, was not uncommon in a high school. In 37 years in education, he said, he’d seen many students of different ages working together.

“They’re in the same band class. They’re in the same world language class. They’re in the same play[s] after school,” he said.

He added that the suspects were technically ninth graders as well as the victim because they were coming to the school system for the first time. Asked whether older students could be screened and placed in alternate settings, such as night school, Smith said, “Certainly we will take a good hard look at how we place students.”

Smith said most of the communications to himself and the school board were from “concerned parents,” but he’d also received some “racist, hate-filled” messages.

“That is not the community I moved to last summer, and that is not the community I want to live in,” he said.

Asked whether there had been any blowback against immigrant students from other students on county schools, Smith said, “No incidents [have been] reported at all, but we’re certainly keeping a close eye on it.”

WTOP’s Dick Uliano contributed to this report.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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