Teens accused in rape at school out on bail

Noting `new information,' state agrees to the release

April 22, 2004|By Gus G. Sentementes, Lisa Goldberg and Tricia Bishop | Gus G. Sentementes, Lisa Goldberg and Tricia Bishop,SUN STAFF

Noting an "abundance of new information," Howard County prosecutors agreed yesterday to the release on bail of three teen-agers accused of raping a 15-year-old girl last week in a boys' bathroom at an Ellicott City high school.

Before a courtroom packed with the teen-agers' family members and reporters, Howard District Judge Pamila J. Brown reversed a decision made by another judge Friday -- at the request of the state's attorney's office and based on the severity of the allegations -- to hold the suspects without bail.

Lawyers for both sides said yesterday that information developed over the weekend changed the posture of the investigation -- and persuaded the state's attorney's office to agree to bail.

"It's been a very active investigation," State's Attorney Timothy J. McCrone said after the hearing. "There has been an abundance of new information that has come to our attention."

The teens, who appeared in court in gray jumpsuits and ankle chains, were arrested a week ago at Mount Hebron High School and charged early Friday as adults. After spending six days at the county Detention Center in Jessup, each was released yesterday afternoon to their parents on $20,000 unsecured bond -- which means no payment is made up front, but the bonds must be paid if the teens don't show up for court.

At home a few hours after his release, Demitris Myrick, 18, declined to talk about the specifics of the case. But he said he was "thrilled" to be reunited with his family. His mother, Cathey Jones, said she was relieved to have him home again.

"I'm supposed to be going to Red Lobster tonight," he said, while sitting in the living room in black sweat pants, white socks and a white T-shirt. "Jail food is nasty."

The parents of the other two youths declined to comment yesterday.

Reached by phone, the 15-year-old girl's stepgrandmother said the case has been difficult for the entire family.

"There's been a lot of media coverage, which is making it that much more difficult," she said.

The Sun does not identify alleged victims or their family members in cases involving sexual offenses.

Howard police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said police are still investigating and had no new information to release. But attorneys for the three teens alluded to "other evidence," both in court and outside the District Court in interviews.

The first attorney in the case, District Public Defender Carol A. Hanson, said "gut instinct" told her there was more to the story after she interviewed one of the teens, Christopher S. Berry, 16, in jail Friday.

That instinct was confirmed over the next few days, she said, when students from Mount Hebron came forward with eyewitness accounts.

Hanson, whose office withdrew from the case after all three teens hired private attorneys, said she passed her information to the detective handling the case, Cpl. Matthew Tanis, who followed up with "thoroughness."

The teens' attorneys said yesterday that the new witnesses came forward to support their clients' accounts.

"We're finding that this bodes well for the ultimate outcome of the case," Warren A. Brown, who represents Myrick, told reporters outside the courthouse.

The charges

Myrick, Berry, and Roderick D. Rudolph, 15 -- all from Ellicott City -- were charged with rape, sexual offense, conspiracy to commit rape and conspiracy to commit a sexual offense.

The girl told investigators that three teen-agers took her into a boys' bathroom at Mount Hebron around the lunch hour Thursday. Inside a bathroom stall, she said, one held her wrists, a second engaged in sexual acts with her, and a third acted as a lookout, police charging documents said.

But two of the teens told police that they had engaged in sexual acts with her, the documents said -- a significant discrepancy in the accounts that was confirmed by the Police Department this week.

Brown said that a witness -- a fourth boy who walked into the bathroom during the alleged incident -- told investigators that he had been offered sexual favors, but declined.

J. Wyndal Gordon, who represents Berry, said he was not "prepared to fault police" for the arrests. Brown added that investigators have demonstrated "zeal and open-mindedness" in their efforts to "find out what happened."

McCrone said he could not comment on the outcome of the case, although he said "the next logical step" could be giving the case to a grand jury.

In the meantime, Lawrence B. Rosenberg, who represents Rudolph, said one concern is getting his client back in school.

Placement decision

Michael Martirano, director of school administration, said the students could not return to Mount Hebron until Principal Veronica Bohn had a chance to meet with their parents and determine the best educational placement, possibly in a program outside the school. Bohn has sent letters to the teens' parents requesting meetings.

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