Girl admits she wasn't raped by classmates

Charges will be dropped against 3 Howard teens

April 23, 2004|By Lisa Goldberg, Gus G. Sentementes and Liz F. Kay | Lisa Goldberg, Gus G. Sentementes and Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

The 15-year-old girl who told investigators she was raped last week by three classmates in the bathroom of an Ellicott City high school has recanted her story to police, leading the Howard County state's attorney's office to announce last night that all charges against the three accused teen-agers would be dropped.

The decision came a day after prosecutors, noting an "abundance of new information" in the case, agreed to support the bid of the three teen-agers, who had been charged with rape, for release on $20,000 unsecured bond.

By the time of Wednesday's bail review, the girl's story had already "changed substantially," Howard State's Attorney Timothy J. McCrone said. But the complete retraction did not come about until later the same day, he said.

"The evidence we have now no longer supports the allegations," McCrone said.

McCrone's decision ends a week that began with allegations of rape in a boy's bathroom at Mount Hebron High School that started to sputter over the weekend as student witnesses came forward to support the teen-age suspects' insistence that any sex acts were consensual.

Prosecutors will formally drop all charges against Roderick D. Rudolph, 15, Christopher S. Berry, 16, and Demitris R. Myrick, 18, all of Ellicott City, in the next few days, the state's attorney said. The Sun identified the juveniles because they were charged as adults.

Police Chief Wayne Livesay, who attended a community meeting last night at the high school about the incident, said he supported the decision to charge the three teen-agers last week. "They knew what they knew then," he said about the investigators. "We know much more now than we did a week ago."

J. Wyndal Gordon, an attorney who represents Berry, described the dropping of charges as "bittersweet," and said a lawsuit could be filed if the state's attorney doesn't charge the girl for lying about the incident.

"Yes, the right thing has happened, but look what has happened to these young men," he said.

The girl initially told investigators that three teen-agers took her into a boys' bathroom during the lunch hour, where one held her wrists, another engaged in sexual acts with her, and a third watched the door, according to court documents. A medical examination found physical trauma consistent with forcible rape, the documents said.

But in interviews with investigators, two of the teen-agers admitted to engaging in sexual acts with the girl - a key discrepancy confirmed by the Police Department this week.

And lawyers for the teen-agers said at least six students came forward with eyewitness information, including one boy who walked into the bathroom during the incident.

Authorities were able to point to other possible causes for the trauma noted in the medical exam: consensual sex would not be "inconsistent" with the findings, McCrone said.

Despite the end result and calls by some of the teen-agers' attorneys for the girl to be "held accountable," McCrone said he had no plans to charge her criminally.

"We're trying to get her some assistance," he said.

The 15-year-old girl's step-grandmother said the situation was "unfortunate." The Sun is not naming the grandmother to protect the identity of her granddaughter, a juvenile.

"I regret all of them had to go through any of this," she said. "Hopefully, a lesson will be learned through it, by everybody."

Baltimore attorney Warren A. Brown, who represents Myrick, said the charges might be a "blessing in disguise."

"I think this will be a very valuable lesson, especially for these three, but for many others who witnessed what's gone on here," he said. "It was poor judgment."

The allegations shocked school officials, parents and students, led to a re-evaluation of security processes at the school, and drew intense media coverage over the past week. Last night, school officials held a community meeting - and barred journalists - to discuss the incident and other safety issues.

The three teen-agers and the girl will not be allowed back in school until school officials meet with them and their parents to discuss any disciplinary action connected with the bathroom incident, Patti Caplan, a school system spokeswoman, said in an interview.

The attorneys representing all three said they had set up meetings with Mount Hebron school officials to discuss their clients' futures. Some said they still hope the boys can return to the school, but Lawrence B. Rosenberg, who represents Rudolph, said he doubts that will be the case.

"I honestly don't know. I just think that it would probably be too disruptive at this point," he said.

Myrick's mother, Cathey Jones, said that she has a meeting with Mount Hebron's principal, Veronica Bohn, early next week. She said she was relieved by the news.

"I called all my sisters and brothers and told them," Jones said. "I'm relieved. I really am."

Karen Rudolph, mother of Roderick Rudolph, said she had heard from others that the charges would be dropped, but declined comment until she talked with her attorney.

At last night's community meeting attended by hundreds at Mount Hebron, parents who left the auditorium said the session focused largely on general sex issues and security procedures.

"We're using this whole unfortunate incident as a teachable moment," Bohn, the principal, said after the meeting. "We want to use it as an opportunity to develop an awareness about safety and appropriate behavior."

Rachel Lohmeyer, who has a daughter at the school, said she was never concerned about her daughter's safety.

District Public Defender Carol A. Hanson, who initially represented Berry and began to take a hard look at the allegations last Friday on "gut instinct," said she was happy that "justice has prevailed."

Said Hanson: "It does make you wonder how many times false accusations go uninvestigated and innocent people are convicted and imprisoned."

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