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Rape Charges to Be Dropped in Case Cited by White House as Immigration Issue

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The Maryland case drew national attention after Sean Spicer cited it as an example of the need to crack down on illegal immigration.
Prosecutors in Maryland said on Friday that they would drop rape charges against an undocumented immigrant and another high school student, adding a new twist to a case that the White House had held up as evidence of the need to be tough on illegal immigration.
The allegations originated at Rockville High School in March, when the police accused the two male students of raping a 14-year-old girl in a bathroom stall. The case quickly ascended to the national stage when Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, told reporters that President Trump had prioritized cracking down on illegal immigration “because of tragedies like” the situation in Maryland.
Days later, the father of the undocumented student was detained by the federal authorities for entering the country illegally, placing additional scrutiny on the case and stirring further debate.
But on Friday, John J. McCarthy, state’s attorney for Montgomery County, said his office had concluded that “the facts of this case do not support the charges originally filed” against the two students, Henry E. Sanchez-Milian, 18, and Jose O. Montano, 17.
Citing a “lack of corroboration and substantial inconsistencies, ” Mr. McCarthy told reporters that after a “painstaking investigation” it had become clear that prosecuting the students on the original charges of first-degree rape and sexual offense was “untenable.”
“The actions today have been discussed with the 14-year-old girl, her attorney and her family, ” he said. “As prosecutors, we always go where the evidence takes us, ” regardless of “public opinion or political pressure.”
Though he said he would drop the rape charges against Mr. Sanchez-Milian, Mr. McCarthy said his office had filed a new child pornography charge against him, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Mr. McCarthy did not elaborate. A spokesman for his office said the charge was filed on Thursday.
At a news conference on Friday, lawyers for Mr. Montano said the state had also decided to file pornography-related charges against their client in juvenile court.
“It’s egregious that the state is doing this, ” Maria Mena, one of Mr. Montano’s lawyers, said. “The purpose of the pornography statute was to go after adult predators, not juveniles.”
Prosecutors had originally intended to charge Mr. Montano as an adult in the rape case.
Asked Friday afternoon about Maryland prosecutors’ decision to drop the rape charges, Sarah Sanders, the White House’s deputy press secretary, said she would not retract any statements on the case “without further information.” Mr. Spicer, she said, “was speaking about what he knew at the time.”
“We’ re always looking to protect the American people, ” she said, adding later in a reference to Mr. Trump, “This is a law-and-order president.”
The episode from which the allegations arose occurred March 16 when, according to the Montgomery County Police Department, Mr. Montano and Mr. Sanchez-Milian had propositioned the 14-year-old girl for sex in a hallway of the high school. When she refused, they forced her into a boys’ bathroom and raped her in a stall, the authorities said at the time.
It was not immediately clear how Friday’s developments would affect Mr. Sanchez-Milian’s immigration status.
The authorities have not commented on Mr. Montano’s immigration status because he is a minor.
But David Wooten, one of Mr. Montano’s lawyers, said his client’s family members are United States citizens and confirmed that his client 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, ” Mr. Wooten said.
United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said that after the students were arrested they had determined that Mr. Sanchez-Milian, a native of Guatemala, had entered the country illegally. They placed a detainer on Mr. Sanchez-Milian the day he was charged, which officials said at the time would allow them to eventually take him into custody.
Soon after, ICE officers arrested Mr. Sanchez-Milian’s father, Adolfo Sanchez-Reyes.
The case received extensive news media coverage in connection with the nationwide debate over undocumented immigrants and so-called sanctuary cities.

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