Four high school students are being tried as adults for what prosecutors said were “astonishingly cruel” sexual assaults involving a broom in a locker room at Damascus High School in Maryland.
The four 15-year-old suspects were members of Damascus’s junior varsity football team, and said the incidents were part of a known hazing ritual at the school.
The suspects made their first appearance in Montgomery County District court on Nov. 26 charged with one count of first-degree rape, three counts of attempted first-degree rape and one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree rape. A fifth student is being charged as a juvenile.
Montgomery Deputy State’s Attorney Peter Feeney said in court that the suspects had “intended to inflict pain, degrade, and humiliate the weaker members of the football team,” according to the Washington Post.
The alleged incident happened on Oct. 31 and was only discovered after a father of a victim found his son sobbing in his room later that night, Fox 5 DC reported. He notified the coaches who then told the principal.
In an arrest document, the victims describe the alleged attack in some detail, with the broom being used on one boy then the next three in turn.
‘The Victims Yelled and Screamed’
“Victim C said after they finished with him, they proceeded to Victim A where they pulled Victim A’s sweatshirt over the top of his head, punched him in the face, knocked him on his back and stomped on him,” authorities said in the arrest document.
More than one of the attackers could be heard laughing, Feeney said in court, while the victims yelled and screamed.
One victim asked an attacker to stop but was told what was happening was “tradition.” It hasn’t been independently confirmed whether this is true or a student rumor.
“Each defendant played a significant role in carrying out their plan to sexually assault the victims in this case,” Feeney said, “whether it was pushing, punching, stomping, holding down, tackling or wielding the broom. The crimes could only have been committed with the active participation of each defendant.”
Prosecutors pushed for the suspects to be held in jail on no-bond status, but Judge John C. Moffett said they did not pose a substantial risk to the public and could be released on bail.
Daniel Wright, one of the defense attorneys, called the alleged incidents hazing “that went to extremes” and emphasized his clients’ academic performance.
“It was out of control because of the group nature of the offenses and the utter lack of adult presence in the locker room,” Wright said.
Defense attorney David Felsen said it was difficult to know exactly what happened and said his client was an honor-roll student.
The suspects were initially brought before juvenile court in November with less serious charges of second-degree rape, but these were upgraded last week, then amended for a second time to first-degree rape.
“It is clear that this is a developing case,” Felsen said, according to the Washington Post. “Different people say different people did different things. I think this is an ever-changing circumstance.”