Prosecutor drops rape case against teen charged in alleged Rockville rape
ROCKVILLE – A prosecutor from the State’s Attorney’s office for Montgomery County dropped the rape charge against Jose Montano, 17, in Montgomery County District Court Friday.
Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Herdman dropped the rape charge on behalf of the prosecution, spokesperson Ramon Korionoff said.
Police charged Montano and 18-year-old Henry Sanchez with first-degree rape and two counts of sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl on March 16 at Rockville High School.
According to Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy, the prosecution dropped the charges against Montano after its independent investigation showed that there was not enough evidence to prove that Montano raped the 14-year-old Rockville High School student.
“After a painstaking investigation and review of these matters, we have concluded that the facts of this case do not support the charges originally filed in this matter,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said after police conducted their original investigation the prosecutors conducted their own investigation, in which they used forensic evidence, DNA evidence and video evidence, but that those were not enough to prove Montano raped the 14-year-old girl.
McCarthy did not take questions, saying that he could not comment on Montano’s case any further, given that other charges against him will go to juvenile court. According to Montano’s attorney, Maria Mena, Montano could be charged with possession and distribution of pornography because he possessed lewd photos and videos from the 14-year-old girl and sent them to Sanchez.
Mena said if the state charges Montano, it should also charge the 14-year-old girl.
“I mean that’s a double standard,” Mena said. “If you’re going to charge, they both should be charged and both face the consequences of a trial.”
Montano’s attorneys argued that messages between Montano and the 14-year-old girl showed the two planned on having sex at school the next day.
David Wooten, another attorney for Montano, said the potential pornography charges are ironic given the circumstances.
“The irony is the very images and text messages that vindicated the rape charges are now being used against him to continue to pursue whatever other ulterior motive the state has,” Wooten said.
Sanchez will appear in Montgomery County District Court on May 12.
McCarthy would not comment on whether the state would drop the rape charges against Sanchez.
Montano’s and Sanchez’s immigration statuses sparked a community-wide debate about immigration law enforcement.
According to Matthew D. Bourke, a spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a U.S. border patrol agent stopped Sanchez for illegally entering the U.S stopped Sanchez last summer. Bourke said Sanchez was supposed to appear in front of an immigration judge, but his hearing was never scheduled.
While ICE declined to comment on Montano’s immigration status because he is a minor, Mena said Montano is an undocumented immigrant who is living with his family members who are U.S. citizens.
Days after police announced the March arrest, protestors gathered outside Rockville High School, challenging County school officials as to why they would allow undocumented immigrants to attend public high school. A week later, local Republicans gathered outside the County Council building saying they wanted to send a message to County officials to help enforce immigration law and honor ICE detainers.
Montano’s and Sanchez’s immigration statuses drew the attention of the White House, who used the case to forward their policy to pull funding from “sanctuary cities.”
“I think part of the reason the president has made illegal immigration and crackdown such a big deal is because of tragedies like this,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer in March, of the incident at Rockville High School.
While County officials denied that the County was a sanctuary jurisdiction, saying it cooperated with immigration officials for serious criminals – the federal administration had a different view.
When asked about the case at Rockville High School Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Montgomery County could potentially lose federal funding for a lack of cooperation with federal immigration officials.
“I would plead with the people of Maryland to understand that this makes the state of Maryland more at risk for violence and crime.” Sessions said. “It is not good policy.”