WASHINGTON — Montgomery County prosecutors are dropping rape and sexual offense charges against two Rockville High School students accused of assaulting a 14-year-old female student in a school bathroom in March.
After a “painstaking investigation,” charges were dropped against 17-year-old Jose Montano and 18-year-old Henry Sanchez Milian because of a lack of corroboration and “substantial inconsistencies” in the 14-year-old student’s account of the reported assault, Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said Friday.
“The original charges cannot be sustained, and prosecution on those charges is untenable,” McCarthy told reporters in a prepared statement at Montgomery County Circuit Court.
The reported March 16 assault had initially been described by Montgomery County police as a brutal attack. The 14-year-old student told police she’d been approached by Montano and Sanchez Milian in a Rockville High hallway during school hours and led into a boys’ bathroom where they raped and sodomized her.
Montano’s lawyer had maintained the encounter was consensual and that text messages and photos the 14-year-old sent to Montano would prove that.
The prosecutor’s office interviewed witnesses, reviewed medical records and school security videos, tested forensic and DNA evidence, and sifted through phone and computer records, McCarthy said in his prepared statement.
Prosecutors obtained four translations of Spanish-language text message exchanges between the students “to make sure we got the verbiage correct, and we knew what was being exchanged,” he said.
In addition, prosecutors met numerous times with the 14-year-old student and her mother as well as her attorneys, doctors and counselors, McCarthy said. Prosecutors also consulted with experts in sexual assault forensics, he said.
“As prosecutors, we always go where the evidence takes us … regardless of public opinion or political pressure,” McCarthy said.
Montano will be referred to juvenile court, where his lawyers said he would face child pornography charges. Sanchez Milian is also facing child pornography charges, McCarthy said.
The reported assault fueled controversy in the school system and the county over student safety and immigration — even leading White House press secretary Sean Spicer to decry the reported attack during a daily briefing and to suggest Rockville “should look at its policies.”
Both Montano and Sanchez Milian were in the U.S. illegally, according to Montgomery County authorities, and faced possible action from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Milian’s father, who had been in the U.S. for 12 years, was arrested by ICE agents about a week after his son was arrested on the rape charges after he was found to be in the country unlawfully.
In a May 5 statement after prosecutors announced the dropped charges, Montgomery County School Superintendent Jack Smith said, “our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the Rockville High School community, particularly the female student who has been at the center of this. I know that the staff and students remain focused on healing as a community and ending this school year ‘Rockville Strong.'”
The reported incident spurred a “safety audit” at Rockville High and other Montgomery County public schools, including restructuring bathrooms to remove doors.
In the statement, Smith said the safety review had been completed at Rockville High and five other high schools. School officials will next review safety at middle schools and elementary schools, he said.
WTOP’s John Aaron contributed to this report.