Several dozen neighbors in an Ellicott City housing complex are petitioning the county to evict a 16-year-old resident who was convicted of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old neighbor.
The mother of the boy who was assaulted said she circulated the petition Saturday during community day at the county-owned Hilltop complex, gathering 62 signatures from fellow residents.
The youth was convicted of the offense last week in juvenile court and placed on probation.
"I was appalled by the light sentence that this child received," said the mother, whose name is being withheld to protect her son's privacy. "My son is eventually going to be OK, but what about the other kids out there? They returned this boy back to the neighborhood, and who's to say he's not going to do it again?"
The woman said that friends have suggested she move from Hilltop, but she's determined to stay in her home.
When her son sees the 16-year-old in the complex, she said "he's convinced this could happen to him again."
"I've been here for 10 years, why should I uproot him and start all over again because another child could not leave him alone?" she said.
"My son has been a victim one time, and I can't victimize him again by making him move."
County Housing Director Leonard Vaughan said the county Office of Law is currently reviewing the case.
"We're trying to determine if he's a danger to the rest of the community, but we have to concern ourselves with the rights of all parties," he said.
Vaughan said the situation is complicated in that the offender is a juvenile. There is limited access to his records and no clear guidelines on how to handle juvenile offenders in county-owned housing, he said.
"I don't think a court will allow me to say to a parent, 'you have four kids, one is misbehaving, so you can't live here,' " Vaughan said.
In some cases where an adult tenant of county-owned housing has been convicted of a drug-related offense, they have left at the request of housing officials, Vaughan said.
In drug cases involving juveniles living in county-owned residences, Vaughan said the housing office has been able to arrange for families to remain together in their homes.
Vaughan said the housing office has never faced the problem of a juvenile sex offender living in county-owned housing.
The victim's mother said her son was playing "cops and robbers" in the woods behind Hilltop with an 11-year-old boy and the 16-year-old. The 11-year-old hit her son in the face and the 16-year-old sexually assaulted him.
She said her son told her about the attack three days later and she reported it to the police.
The 16-year-old was charged with a first-degree sex offense and pleaded guilty to a third-degree sex offense last week, she said. The 11-year-old pleaded guilty to an assault charge, she said.
Vaughan said that the county Department of Social Services determined that the 11-year-old, also a Hilltop resident, should be removed from the custody of his grandmother.
Under state law, all juvenile court proceedings and records are confidential. Although she couldn't attend his sentencing, the victim's mother said she found out from a court official that the 16-year-old received probation and was ordered to stay away from her son.
However, she said the boy was playing in the backyard of her town house last weekend.
Those familiar with the case in the juvenile court system said that state law prevents them from discussing any juvenile matters, however they spoke in general terms about the juvenile court system.
"There's a completely different purpose in juvenile proceedings," said Bernard A. Raum, a county juvenile master. "They're directed toward the treatment and rehabilitation of the juvenile offender."
Raum said that sentences for juveniles convicted of sexual assault range from probation with counseling to placement in a juvenile facility.