4 Damascus JV football players charged as adults with rape in broomstick hazing are colored boys


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4 Damascus JV football players charged as adults with rape in alleged broomstick hazing


Four Damascus High School junior varsity football players accused of hazing teammates with a broomstick :eek:will be charged as adults with first degree rape, according to authorities.

Montgomery County Public Schools released a statement Wednesday saying that the State’s Attorney for Montgomery County was amending the charges for Jean Claude "JC" Abedi, Kristian Lee, Will Smith and Caleb Thorpe, who are all 15 years old and accused of raping their fellow teammates on Halloween.

Officials say the fifth player's case will stay in juvenile court.

Sources confirm the five accused players used a wooden broomstick to sodomize the victims. The attacks, which school administrators have called "upsetting and unacceptable," happened following afternoon dismissal in the boy's locker room near the gymnasium. The four victims were picked, in part, based on their age and level of athleticism, sources add.

Montgomery County Police had initially charged three of the players with two counts of second-degree rape and two counts of attempted second-degree rape. A fourth player was charged with three counts of second-degree rape. The fifth player was charged with one count of attempted second-degree rape.

Will Smith
Damascus High School - Boys JV Football
Damascus, MD



JC Abedi
Damascus High School - Boys Varsity Football
Damascus, MD



Caleb Thorpe
Damascus High School - Boys JV Football
Damascus, MD

Damascus High School locker-room rape defendant moved to juvenile court for prosecution

A sign shows the Damascus High School logo in 2017. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)
By Dan Morse

March 22, 2019 at 12:39 a.m. UTC

The last of four teenagers accused of sexual assaults in a high school locker room will have his case transferred to juvenile court, a decision made Thursday by a Maryland judge that means all the 15-year-olds originally charged as adults with attacking their football teammates with a broom handle have been transferred to the juvenile court system.

Jean Claude “J.C.” Abedi, who last fall was a student at Damascus High School, where the reported attacks occurred Oct. 31, would be best served by treatment in the juvenile system, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Steven G. Salant ruled. He had made similar findings over the past month for three of Abedi’s former teammates on Damascus’s junior varsity team.

“A 15-year-old brain is not fully developed, even with a completely healthy 15-year-old, “ Salant said Thursday. EXCUSES

Prosecutors had argued that Abedi’s poor disciplinary record as a student, including 11 suspensions in the years before the October attacks, was among the reasons he should be tried as an adult.

“You’re talking about theft, bullying, harassment, attacks on students — multiple — fighting, sexual harassment,” Montgomery Assistant State’s Attorney Carlotta Woodward said in court.

In moving Abedi to juvenile court, Salant acknowledged the troubling behavioral record but said much of it stemmed from Abedi’s suffering for years from undiagnosed and untreated attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

School staff members as far back as sixth grade were too focused on his symptoms rather than searching out the cause, Salant said.

“There was not one psychological assessment done by the schools, not one,” Salant said, citing evidence presented to him in the case. “There was no test for learning disorders. . . . We have a kid churning and churning.

The rulings do not end the prosecutions. The suspects carried the same rape charges into the juvenile system. Outcomes there are geared toward rehabilitation and treatment, and punishment often is probation with no public conviction on a record. Adult courts produce a public record of the proceedings and can yield long prison sentences.

The Maryland Department of Juvenile Services assessed the defendants to make recommendations about a court venue for each. For three, it concluded juvenile court was best. Abedi was the exception, according to court hearings, with the agency recommending adult court because of concerns that included about his amenability to treatment.

Family members of at least three of the victims also wanted Abedi’s case heard in adult court, their attorneys said Thursday, where his actions would be given a public accounting and perhaps stiffer punishment if there was a conviction. “The families, the victims are outraged by the decision to send this case down to juvenile in court,” said Thomas DeGonia, a Rockville attorney who represents two families.
The judge announced his decision Thursday after a day-long hearing Tuesday on arguments over the path for Abedi’s case.

The afternoon of the reported attacks, according to police and prosecutors, the defendants turned off the lights in the freshman locker room before going after four teammates — ages 14 and 15.

“This wasn’t a prank, this wasn’t a hazing,” Woodward said. “This was rape, and multiple attempted rapes, of four freshman boys. The victims screamed and pleaded for them to stop. Instead, they went from one victim to the other.”

‘Astonishingly cruel.’ Prosecutor describes locker room attacks

Abedi’s attorney, Daniel Wright, said his client was diagnosed as ADHD after his arrest in November, is taking medication and has enrolled in a different school while on bond where he recently attained a 3.5 grade-point average.
Salant picked up on that, saying from the bench: “He’s calmer. He’s more compliant” and is “amenable to help.”

Abedi and his family immigrated from Congo to Maryland in 2014. He started in middle school, going on to Clarksburg High School, where he was “thrown off of the football team because of temper,” Salant said in court Thursday, reading from school records.

His mother moved into the Damascus school district, she testified, allowing her son to start at Damascus in the fall of 2018. At 6-foot-1 and more than 200 pounds, he joined the football team there.

His behavior did not improve, prompting Damascus head coach Eric Wallich to warn Abedi his playing days were in peril. The coach also emailed teachers at the school with his concerns.

“I get an email or a phone call almost daily about his behavior in class,” Wallich stated to them, according to Salant. “I have spoken to him and made it clear that he could be suspended indefinitely from the football team. . . . It’s a shame, because this kid needs football.”
“He can’t control himself,” Wallich also stated, according to the judge.

Prosecutors described what they say was Abedi’s role in the Oct. 31 assaults and also made a new allegation that months earlier, he and a teammate had attacked another player. Abedi was holding a broom and tried to pull down that boy’s pants but the boy fought off the attempt, Montgomery County detective Dana Williams testified.
Prosecutors did not dismiss the ADHD diagnosis.
“That really can explain the distraction,” Woodward said. “Maybe the tardiness, the talking in class.”

But she said it does not explain the bullying and violence that predated Oct. 31 or what police and the victims say happened that afternoon. “They were laughing,” Woodward said of the accused assailants. “This defendant thought it was funny.”

In comments after court Thursday, the head prosecutor in Montgomery County, John McCarthy, also questioned the connection between ADHD and the alleged crimes in the case. “I don’t think there’s any causal connection between suffering from ADHD and committing violent sexual attacks.”

Tuesday’s hearing showed that school staff members repeatedly tried to help Abedi through attention from teachers, communication with his mother and decisions not to expel him.
Randi Wortman, a psychologist hired by Abedi’s family, talked about his upbringing with his family in Congo as “a very happy life.”

He also stood out in school in that country: “He wouldn’t stop talking. He wouldn’t stop being annoying, and yet he got straight A’s,” she said.
Wright called Abedi’s mother to the stand Tuesday. She recalled a pediatrician visit three years ago during which the doctor recommended a medicine to calm her son. “All I can say is I was uneducated about the subject,” Patience Abedi Kalombola said, explaining why she declined the medical advice.

Wright said that as the case proceeds in juvenile court, he will challenge allegations made by prosecutors about the role his client played during the assaults. “He is not the monster they made him out to be,” Wright said.

To explain Abedi’s school record, prosecutors turned to Steven Neff, the director of pupil personnel and attendance services for county schools. Neff testified about details in the earlier 11 suspensions — a suspension connected to the Oct. 31 case made it 12— and correspondence between educators and Abedi’s mother.

The first six suspensions through the seventh grade included punching a student, making vulgar and suggestive comments to girls and making a bold threat.
In the threat case, which resulted in a five-day suspension, Abedi allegedly told a student that “he would shoot the student, her family, and if the family had a dog, he would shoot it, too,” Neff testified, reading from records.

In March 2017 when Abedi was in eighth grade, Neff said school officials wrote to his mother that “we are continuing to see Jean Claude engage in behavior that distracts from teaching and learning and directly affects the safety of others.”
Abedi was suspended three times as a ninth-grader at Clarksburg, Neff testified.

If I remember correctly, the 4 male victims were White.
"All four suspects charged as adults are black. Some of the victims are white. That has prompted certain people to ask if race played a role as freshman were selected, beaten and sexually assaulted. McCarthy stated that is an important question his office is looking into further."

4 Damascus JV football players accused in locker room broomstick rapes released on bond

by Kevin Lewis/ABC7
Monday, November 26th 2018

Four Damascus JV football players accused in broomstick hazing assault to appear in court. Monday, Nov. 26, 2018. (ABC7 photo)

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (ABC7) — After spending Thanksgiving weekend in jail, four Damascus High School junior varsity football players will be released to their families as they await their respective trials.
The judge's ruling followed a nearly hour-long bond review in Montgomery County District Court Monday. During that hearing, prosecutors painted a vivid picture of the incident, which they described as "astonishingly cruel."
Around 2:45 p.m. on Oct. 31, the four victims, all 14-year-old freshmen, were preparing for their final JV football practice of the season, which was scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. They were in the freshmen locker room.
Meanwhile in the neighboring sophomore locker room, fellow teammates Jean Claude "JC" Abedi, Kristian Jamal "KJ" Lee, Will Smith and Caleb Thorpe allegedly devised a plan to attack the smallest and least athletic players. “Let’s go broom some freshman," one of the teens said.
"These crimes were intended to inflict pain, degrade and humiliate the weaker members of the football team," Montgomery County Deputy State's Attorney Peter Feeney stated in court.
The victims recalled the locker room lights suddenly going dark. The sophomores entered banging the four-foot wooden broomstick against the wall, while chanting and pumping their fists in the air.
One by one, the victims were pinned down to either the floor or a bench, and stripped of their clothing. Some reported being sodomized with the broom while others fought back limiting the extent of penetration. The group huddled around one of the victims and berated him with names like "soft" and "fatty."
“We’re not as good as most of the other kids on the team. I think that might be a reason," one of the victims would later theorize to investigators.
“I went to the ground and squeezed my legs to avoid the broom," a different victim told detectives.
The victims were pushed, punched, kicked and stomped on as they struggled to keep their boxers and pants on their bodies. One exclaimed, “stop, stop, stop!” Laughter could also be heard in the locker room. Feeney explained that one victim attempted to escape from the locker room, but Thorpe blocked him from doing so.

"Each defendant played a significant role in carrying out their plan to sexually assault the victims in this case... The crimes could only have been committed with the active participation of each defendant."
The alleged plan was to sodomize more teammates, but when someone yelled, "coach is coming," everyone scattered and reported to practice. Word started to spread after one victim had a "breakdown" following practice, which included crying and hyperventilating.

Later that same day, the father of one victim came from work to find his son sobbing in his bedroom. That boy told his dad what had happened. The father called the head JV football coach. The JV coach then contacted the head varsity coach, who in turn, called Damascus' principal, Casey Crouse.
Crouse reported the incident to Montgomery County Police the following day, Nov. 1. Around 2:30 p.m. that afternoon, Thorpe, Abedi, Lee and Smith were loaded into different patrol cars, and taken to the Special Victims Investigation Division for interviews.
Meanwhile investigators obtained a search warrant and collected evidence in the freshman locker room, including the wooden broomstick with tan bristles. Authorities also became aware of a Damascus JV football team Snapchat group where players discussed the alleged rapes.
Damascus High School JV Football Players Charged In Locked Room Rape Case:
Jean Claude "JC" Abedi — 6'1" / 242 pounds — 23100 block of Arora Hills Drive in Clarksburg
Kristian Jamal "KJ" Lee — 5'4" / 143 pounds — 11800 block of Little Seneca Parkway in Clarksburg
Will Smith — 5'4" / 143 pounds — 23400 block of Arora Hills Drive in Clarksburg
Caleb Thorpe — 5'11" / 170 pounds — 24100 block of Newbury Road in Gaithersburg
Each of the embattled football players appeared via closed circuit television from the county jail as private defense attorneys spoke on their behalf.

David Felsen, Smith's lawyer, had the 15-year-old's mother and two sisters raise their hands in court. He stated his client is an honor roll student, and tried to poke holes in the prosecution's narrative.
"Different people say that different people did different things to different people," Felsen remarked.
Thorpe's parents, godmother and three grandparents attended court. His attorney, Shelly Brown, noted that the teen had been taking six honors courses, and is active in his church where he volunteers helping young kids.
Attorney Jason Downs rattled off Lee's, grades: 84 percent in honors Spanish, 82 percent in honors biology and 81 percent in honors U.S. history. Downs made clear that Lee has no prior juvenile record, and based on what's outlined in criminal charging documents, appears to have been less involved when compared to Abedi, Smith and Thorpe.
Defense attorney Daniel Wright revealed that Abedi has already been expelled from Damascus High School. He proceeded to point the finger at a combo platter of pack mentality and poor supervision.
“Peer pressure and group psychology can take over making young people do things they wouldn’t normally do," Wright stated. "It was out of control because of the group nature of the offense, and the utter lack of adult presence in the locker room.”
Judge John Moffett opted to release each of the four teens on a $20,000 unsecured personal bond, explaining he does not believe they are a flight risk or pose harm to the community. An unsecured personal bond does not require an upfront financial contribution, but should one of the teens flee, their parent/s could be ordered to pay the court the full $20,000.
Moffett's ruling serves as only a temporary victory for the teens. After all, they each face one count of first-degree rape, three counts of attempted first-degree rape and one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree rape. All told, the charges could result in decades of prison for each athlete.
Following court, Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy held a press conference where he scoffed at anyone who continues to refer to this case as "hazing," something Montgomery County Public School leaders have done repeatedly over the last month.
"I'm offended by the term 'hazing.' It's not hazing, these are crimes and I would caution anyone to refer to this as hazing."
McCarthy also acknowledged the fact that at least two of the suspects, and many others in the Damascus community, have made claims that "brooming" is a longstanding tradition within the town's robust football program. Smith, for instance, reportedly told police, “’the broom’ started generations ago.”
"Will we be looking at the potential this has happened in prior years? The answer is absolutely yes, but we had to set priorities of what to do first, and what to do second," McCarthy stated, explaining that filing charges in the current case took absolute precedence.
Four weeks of police work has resulted in more than 600 pages of documents, plus roughly 14 hours of video taped interviews. The state revealed that in one clip, Lee is recorded laughing while telling detectives his side of the story.
McCarthy went on to share he has been in frequent communication with MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith, providing Smith with updates along the way. McCarthy made clear that his office does not believe school employees — nor the coaching staff — did anything criminal.
"The lack of supervision was something that was spoken to a couple of times at the bond review today by the defense attorneys. I don't think any of that rises to level of criminal culpability. Obviously the victims in this case may have some civil causes of action against the school system, but not a criminal matter."
All four suspects charged as adults are black. Some of the victims are white. That has prompted certain people to ask if race played a role as freshman were selected, beaten and sexually assaulted. McCarthy stated that is an important question his office is looking into further.
All four players are not allowed to return to Damascus High School or communicate with one another while out on bond. The court system will likely set a daily curfew and may require the teens undergo mental health evaluations.