Friday, March 24, 2000

Students in rape case may return to jail

Judge looks at release order

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — A judge could decide today whether two Mason eighth-graders accused of the sexual assault of three female classmates should go back to jail.

        Warren County Prosecutor Tim Oliver contested a magistrate's order last week releasing the youths from detention and placing them under house arrest so they could return to Mason Middle School.

        Mr. Oliver's objection is to be heard this morning before Judge P. Daniel Fedders in Warren County Common Pleas Court.

        The two boys were among three youths, ages 13 and 14, who were arrested last week on charges of rape and sexual battery in an attack that occurred March 11 at the home of one of the girls.

        The girls are 14 and attend eighth grade at the middle school.

        The third boy was jailed again Tuesday after being accused of phoning one of the girls despite a court order barring any contact with the girls.

        Magistrate Erik Peters' March 17 order fueled a debate about the propriety of ordering the boys to attend the same school as the girls.

        Jeff Meadows, a West Chester attorney who represents one of the boys, defended the boys' release.

        “I think Magistrate Peters made a sound decision. There were not any strenuous objections from the prosecution at that point.

        “There were no allegations presented in court that would give rise to any other decision contrary to the one that he made,” Mr. Meadows said.

        Mr. Oliver could not be reached Thursday.

        School officials have said the court order left them without options other than to accept the boys back.

        State law obligates schools to teach students in their district, and also bars the district from suspending or expelling students for most incidents — even crimes — that occur off school grounds.

        The boys returned to class Monday, but Mason district officials said only two of the eighth-graders were in school Thursday.

        “We have been sending their work home at the parents' requests so they won't miss anything in their classes,” Principal Scott Inskeep said Thursday. “It was a choice their parents made.”

        Judge Fedders is hearing the case today because the county's juvenile judge seat is vacant pending an appointment by Gov. Bob Taft.

        Under juvenile laws, attorneys in the case have 10 days to object to a magistrate's decision and ask for a review by a judge.

        Sue Kiesewetter contributed to this report.


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