Prosecutors have dropped rape charges against two immigrant high school students in Maryland whose case had been used by the White House as evidence of the need to crack down on undocumented immigrants.
Henry Sanchez-Milian, 18, and Jose Montano, 17, both students at Rockville High School, were accused in March of raping a 14-year-old schoolmate in a bathroom stall at school. They were arrested and charged as adults with first-degree rape and two counts each of first-degree sexual offense.
The case drew national attention due to the nature of the crime and because Sanchez-Milian, a citizen of Guatemala, was in the US illegally.
But on Friday, prosecutors dropped the rape and sexual offense charges against both students, citing the “lack of corroboration and substantial inconsistencies from the facts.”
“After a painstaking investigation and review of these matters, we have concluded that the facts of this case do not support the charges originally filed,” Montgomery County state attorney John McCarthy said in a statement.
Instead, Sanchez-Milian has been charged with possession of child pornography, prosecutors said. Montano will be charged in juvenile court with two counts each of possession and distribution of child pornography for allegedly forwarding videos and images of the 14-year-old girl, his defense attorney Maria Mena said.
After Sanchez-Milian was arrested in March, Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued an immigration detainer on him. His father, Adolfo Sanchez-Reyes, was arrested days later “after a review of his immigration history revealed he was unlawfully present,” according to an ICE spokesman.
White House comment
When charges were initially filed, White House press secretary Sean Spicer called the alleged crime “horrendous and horrible and disgusting” and used it to bolster the administration’s plans to crack down on undocumented immigrants.
“I think part of the reason the President has made illegal immigration and crackdown such a big deal is because of tragedies like this,” he said.
Spicer said the case also raised questions about the policy of providing public education to undocumented immigrants.
“The President recognizes that education is a state-run and a local-run issue but I think it is — it is cause for concern, what happened there,” Spicer said. “And I think that the city should look at its policies and I think that this is something that authorities are going to have to look at.”
On Friday, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that she had not spoken to Spicer about the dropped charges and would need to know more before commenting.
“Sean was speaking about what he knew at the time,” she said. “I’m not going to retract anything without further information.”
Child porn charge
Defense attorneys had said that the sexual encounter between the defendants and the 14-year-old girl was consensual.
“There were no scratches, no bruises. There was no hitting, there was no screaming, there was no running immediately to some sort of security officer,” Sanchez-Milian’s attorney Andrew Jezic said at the time.
Sanchez-Milian allegedly received sexually explicit images from the 17-year-old student also charged in the case.
Possession of child pornography is a deportable offense, Jezic said, and ICE would likely move forward to deport his client if he is found guilty.
Jezic said the charge was a “criminalization of adolescence,” and added that sexting was “an incredibly common phenomenon in high schools in America.”
Mena, Montano’s attorney, commended prosecutors for dropping the rape charges, she told CNN affiliate WBAL. However, she said it was “egregious” that Montano would face two counts each of possession and distribution of child pornography for forwarding videos and pictures of the girl.
“We as citizens must keep in mind that the purpose of the pornography statute in the state is to basically deter adults from committing acts, not juveniles,” Mena said.