Teen charged in Damascus High School locker room rape to be tried in juvenile court

The superintendent of Stafford County Public Schools has apologized to the transgender middle school student who was forced to sit alone in a hallway during an active shooter drill. (Thinkstock)

ROCKVILLE, Md. — A judge ruled Friday that one of the four Damascus High School football players initially charged as an adult with sexually attacking four teammates with a broomstick will now be tried in juvenile court.

Ramon Korionoff with the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office confirmed Friday that a judge ordered 15-year-old Will Daniel Smith’s case to be moved to juvenile court.

Smith’s defense attorney, David Felsen, argued earlier Friday that the case should be handled in the juvenile justice system, based on the findings of the county’s Department of Juvenile Services, which considered the police report and interviews with Smith and his mother.

But the county’s assistant prosecutor, Carlotta Woodward, told Circuit Court Judge Steven Salant that the case should remain in circuit court, in part because of the “profound effect it’s had on the victims.”

The parents of some of the four victims sat in the front row of the courtroom, listening to the testimony of Michael Bertol, case managing specialist with the juvenile services agency.

He said the agency tasked with studying whether Smith’s case should be handled in juvenile or adult court based its determination on five factors: age, mental/physical health, nature of the crime, risk to public safety and his amenability to treatment.

Based on his age, public safety and amenability, Bertol said the agency believed Smith’s case belonged in juvenile court. On the factors of his mental and physical health, and the seriousness of the offense, the department determined the case should remain in circuit court.

Juvenile court affords far more privacy for youthful offenders, and sentences are generally far shorter than in circuit court.

In his questioning of Bertol, Felsen suggested “there is still some confusion as to who did what to whom,” laying the groundwork to argue his client was less culpable than his teammates.

However, the police report — and prosecutors — said Smith wielded the broom in one of the attacks.

Smith and the other defendants have been each charged with one count of first-degree rape, three counts of attempted first-degree rape and four counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree rape.

Each of the defendants is expected to have a similar hearing to argue for adjudication in the juvenile system.

The police report and Bertol said Smith and teammates had acknowledged the “brooming” was a “tradition,” and had been done by the Damascus team in previous years.

WTOP’s Teta Alim and Megan Cloherty contributed to this report. 

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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