The 15-year-old who sexually assaulted two classmates in two different Loudoun County high schools will be sent to a juvenile treatment facility and will have to register as a sex offender — a rare requirement in a case involving a juvenile.
The teenager was found responsible in a May 28 incident at Stone Bridge High School, in Ashburn, for one felony count of forcible sodomy and one felony count of forcible fellatio. In an Oct. 6 assault at Broad Run High School, the teen was found responsible for abduction, which is a felony, and sexual battery, which is a misdemeanor.
Loudoun County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court Chief Judge Pamela Brooks, who had found the teenager responsible in both cases, said Wednesday she had never ordered a juvenile to register as a sex offender before, but agreed with the request by prosecutors Barry Zweig and Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj. Zweig said he made the request because the boy had committed a second assault after he’d already been charged with the first.
Jason Bickmore, a juvenile probation officer for the county who prepared the recommendation for the judge based in part on psychological testing, had not recommended that the boy register as a sex offender, telling Brooks, “If we’re treating him as a juvenile, with rehabilitation as the goal,” as is traditional in juvenile court, “I’m concerned we would also be labeling him for a lifetime.”
The case became a touchstone for an array of incendiary cultural and political issues last year in Loudoun County, where the assaults occurred. Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin called for an investigation of the county school board’s response to the assaults during his successful campaign last year, and Virginia Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares has said he plans to conduct that probe.
‘You could change’
Before Brooks announced the disposition, the juvenile equivalent of a sentence, the victim of the first assault, who is now 16, took the stand, addressed the defendant by name and told him, “I’m still here. I believe you belong in a program, even though you took advantage of me.”
Her father testified, “You voluntarily took what you wanted. That makes you a dangerous animal. Dangerous animals deserve to be caged, sometimes even put down.”
While he said that, the defendant’s mother cried, shaking uncontrollably.
Toward the end of the father’s statement, his tone changed markedly.
“You could change,” he said. “I don’t believe that you’re a monster. I thought you looked like a monster, but you really don’t.” He said that when he was the defendant’s age, he himself had been sent to a residential facility – he didn’t say why.
He said to the defendant, “Please, dude — do the right thing, man. I can see in your eyes, you know you did wrong.”
‘I hurt people in this courtroom’
Before the judge announced her decision, the defendant stood, wearing an ankle chain over new white sneakers.
He said, “In my time here, I’ve probably thought about this more than I’ve ever thought about anything in my life. I hurt people in this courtroom. Until I heard the witness testimony, I didn’t realize how much I hurt them. I would like to sincerely apologize to the court, the families, the victims.”
“I will never do anything like that again, or hurt anyone like this again.”
Brooks said, “This court has dealt with juvenile sexual assaults before; it’s sadly more common than people outside the system realize.”
In reviewing the reports that Bickmore had prepared, Brooks told the defendant, “Yours scares me. What I read scares me for yourself, your family and society in general. Young man, you need a lot of help.” She told him that he was at high risk for recidivism.
“Even though your lawyer argues this was consensual,” Brooks said, “when someone says yes one day it doesn’t mean they say yes every day. No means no. You exhibited predatory behavior.”
She then said, “I hope when you come out, you come out as a healthy, functioning individual. I’m not sending you to the Department of Juvenile Justice. That would not serve any purpose for you, the commonwealth or the community.”
He was ordered to have no contact with the victims or their families, and then Brooks announced, “This judge has never made this order before: I am ordering you onto the sex offender registry.”
At that, the first victim’s father clapped his hands once in the front row. The defendant’s mother started crying.
The boy is due back in court in July 2024, when he turns 18 and his probation will end.
The defendant’s parents had to sign the order; defense attorney William Mann told the judge that he was noting on the document his objection to the sex offender registry, raising the possibility that that aspect could be appealed.
Asked whether he had any questions, the defendant said, “No your honor; I do not. Thank you for your time.”
As he was being led out of the courtroom, he turned to his parents in the front row. Quietly through his mask, he told them, “Thank you.”
WTOP’s Rick Massimo and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org