Teen gets 40 years for attack at Hickey

Assault highlighted among problems in Md. juvenile justice system

September 08, 2000|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A 17-year-old was sentenced to 40 years in prison yesterday in Baltimore County Circuit Court for sexually assaulting a nurse at the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in an incident that permanently scarred the victim and highlighted problems in Maryland's juvenile justice system.

Felix Fitzgerald received a life sentence with all but 40 years suspended by Judge Alexander Wright Jr.

Fitzgerald, who pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual assault, expressed no remorse, but in a brief tirade, he told Wright that he only pleaded guilty June 28 because he was convinced he wouldn't get a fair trial.

"I already knew that from the top that I wasn't going to win," Fitzgerald said.

The victim told Wright yesterday that she was convinced she was going to die when Fitzgerald grabbed her by the throat and threatened to kill her if she didn't stop screaming.

She also said that she has contemplated suicide as a way to escape the "everlasting pain" left by the incident.

"There is never a day, or hour, and sometimes minute when I don't live with the reminders or hauntingly real memories intruding on my mind," she said.

Fitzgerald was working in the kitchen area at the Cub Hill school June 25 last year when he slipped through an unlocked door shortly after 6 p.m., wrapped a T-shirt around his head as a disguise and jumped a Dutch door to get into the office where the victim was packing medicines, said Jill Savage, an assistant state's attorney.

He choked the 40-year-old victim, grabbed her by the arms and sexually assaulted her, she said.

Fitzgerald was caught after another Hickey employee saw him fleeing the building with the T-shirt still wrapped around his head, Savage said. He confessed to state police, but argued that the sex was consensual, according to court records.

At the time of the assault, Fitzgerald was being held at Hickey on charges of robbery, assault, assault with a deadly weapon and handgun violations.

A spokesman for Correctional Services Corp., the company that provides security at Hickey, said that since the attack, guards have been posted to watch juveniles working in the kitchen area.

The assault was one of several problems that were disclosed in the state's juvenile justice system last year. Three days after the attack, three youths escaped from the Victor Cullen Academy in Frederick County by prying open screens on two dormitory windows.

In January, Gov. Parris N. Glendening removed former Juvenile Justice Secretary Gilberto DeJesus and four administrators after a task force confirmed that guards had routinely assaulted juvenile offenders at three boot camps in Garrett County.

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