ROCKVILLE, Md. - On Friday, prosecutors announced they had dropped charges filed against two Hispanic Rockville High School students who had been accused of raping a 14-year-old female in a school bathroom.
The case received national attention and was cited by the White House as an example of why the president wants to crack down on illegal immigration.
Andrew Jezic, attorney for 18-year-old Henry Sanchez, spoke with FOX 5 regarding the developments. While the rape and sex offense charges have been dropped, Sanchez will be charged with possession of child pornography, a charge which carries a potential sentence of up to five years in prison.
"This is basically Duke lacrosse all over again," said Jezic. "And the only difference from that case to this case is that the prosecutors in this case acted honorably."
He said prosecutors conducted an extensive investigation and that Sanchez remained behind bars the entire time. "After 60 days they decided there was not enough evidence to go forward -which in short means my client, Henry, was innocent."
"He was not old enough to qualify for statutory rape so he was completely innocent of all criminal charges in relation to the sexual relations," Jezic continued.
Jezic said the child pornography charges filed were not part of any agreement with the prosecution. "We were extremely disappointed that the prosecutor chose to file these child pornography charges against our client. Essentially, it's the criminalization of adolescents in America," he said. "So this is fair warning that all children with cell phones in high schools, and parents that pay the bills for those cell phones, could theoretically be subject to the prosecution that my client is facing right now – and that’s just very disappointing."
The next steps in the case, Jezic said, are to hopefully have Sanchez released after a bail review hearing. He said if his client is released, he will most likely be taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He said if that is the case, another ail review hearing would take place. Jezic noted that ICE had previously held Sanchez for 14 days, was investigated and then released into his family’s care.
"If he's found guilty of these charges it will be very difficult for him to stay in the country," Jezic said. If the case goes in Sanchez's favor, Jezic believes they will have a good legal argument for keeping him in the U.S. "But you never know with immigration these days," Jezic said, "things are tougher for immigrants around the country given the new administration's policies."
Jezic said he has spoken with Sanchez and sees him as often as possible. "He's thrilled that the state has chosen to do the right thing. He's maintained his innocence from the beginning. We've maintain his innocence from the beginning. And he's just looking forward to vindicating himself with these new charges and also hopefully being able to win in immigration court."
It is likely that Sanchez would have to register as a sex offender if found guilty on charges of child pornography. "But if he's found guilty he's very likely to be deported. It wouldn't matter any way he would be back if his native country of Guatemala."
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