(ROCKVILLE, Md.) -- Maryland prosecutors announced Friday they are dropping rape charges against two Maryland high school students whose cases sparked a national conversation about U.S. immigration laws.
Jose Montano, 17, and Henry Sanchez Milian, 18, who are both undocumented immigrants, were arrested and accused in March of raping a 14-year-old girl in a bathroom at Rockville High School during school hours.
“After a painstaking investigation and review of these matters, we have concluded that the facts in this case do not support the charges originally filed in this matter,” John McCarthy, the Montgomery County State’s attorney, said Friday during a press conference.
Montano’s attorneys told reporters Friday, “I say the state did the right thing. They reviewed the video, they interviewed multiple witnesses, and they did the correct thing by dropping those charges.”
Both, however, are still facing charges of child pornography for a lewd video sent to them by the 14-year-old victim.
Montano will be charged in juvenile court for possession and distribution. His lawyer refused to comment further due to confidentiality laws.
Milian is facing charges of child pornography in Montgomery County’s Circuit Court.
Maria Mena, one of two lawyers defending Montano, said she feels the child pornography charges against Montano are “egregious” since it’s “against someone who did not even create it, when the person that created it was this young lady who forwarded it and sent it to our client.”
According to the Montgomery County police report, on March 14 the 14-year old victim met Montano and Milian in the school hallway where she was asked by Montano to have sex. When she refused, according to the police report, Montano forced her into the boy’s bathroom, where he and Sanchez Milian raped the victim.
Montano's attorneys refuted the allegation that their client forced the victim into the bathroom and said the encounter was consensual.
"If you were to look at the school footage, you would be able to see her running across the hallway to meet up with our client," Mena said, referring to the school surveillance video. "She was not pushed into this bathroom. She walks into this bathroom."
McCarthy said Friday prosecution in this case is “unattainable” due to the “lack of corroboration and substantial inconsistencies.”
The case sparked renewed criticism of America’s immigration system after it was revealed that the two teenage boys had entered the U.S. illegally and were allowed to remain in the U.S. while awaiting their deportation hearings.
“This is a tragic event and it's horrendous and horrible and disgusting what this young woman in Rockville went through. I can't possibly imagine,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said during a press briefing at the White House on March 21.
He continued, “Part of the reason the president has made illegal immigration and crackdown such a big deal is because of tragedies like this.”
On Friday, deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters: “We're always looking to protect the American people. Sean [Spicer] was speaking about what he knew at the time. And certainly I haven't had a chance to dive into the latest on that. But we will and we’ll get back to you.”
Sanders said she will not retract anything without further information.
In August 2016, Milian had been picked up by Border Patrol when he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border from Guatemala as an unaccompanied minor, but was released to his father’s custody, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He was issued a notice to appear at a later time before an immigration judge, according to a March 23 statement from ICE.
According to Montano’s lawyers, he is in deportation proceedings.
“He came here on his own in order to be reunited with his family because he didn't have any family back home left,” David Wooten, who’s working with Mena to defend Montano, said Friday.
“Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the Rockville High School community, particularly the girl who has been the center of this,” Jack Smith, the superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools, said in a statement. “I know that the staff and students remain focused on healing as a community and ending this school year 'Rockville Strong.'”
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