Thursday, August 17, 2000

Boys drop pleas in sex-assault case

Attorneys say they'd rather go to trial

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — Lawyers for two of three boys charged in the alleged sexual assault of three female classmates said Wednesday they are withdrawing their clients' guilty pleas and taking the cases to trial.

        Their decisions came one week after Warren County prosecutors asked a magistrate to throw out the two boys' pleas, claiming the teens intended to change the testimony they promised to give against a third boy as part of the plea agreement.

        “At this point in time these families are just frustrated and want to get it over with. So, I say, let's put the cards on the table and let's see what both sides of the story are,” defense attorney Jonathan Fox said Wednesday.

        Mr. Fox said he will ask a juvenile magistrate Friday to withdraw his client's guilty plea to a felony charge of gross sexual imposition.

        Defense attorney Jeff Meadows already took that action Wednesday, as his client was set to be sentenced on misdemeanor charges of sexual imposition and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

        That boy now faces trial on the original felony charges — complicity to rape, complicity to attempted rape and sexual battery. Mr. Fox's client will stand trial on charges of rape, sexual battery, attempted sexual battery and contributing.

        Mr. Meadows said his decision was based on “newly discovered evidence” that surfaced last week during the third teen's trial on charges of sexual battery, gross sexual imposition and contributing.

        Mr. Meadows would not elaborate on the evidence. The third boy's trial was continued and is set to resume Aug. 23 in Warren County Juvenile Court. No trial dates were set for the other two teens.

        The boys did not testify at the trial, and defense lawyers have disputed allegations that their clients were changing their testimony.

        Prosecutor Tim Oliver declined comment about the latest developments.

        Authorities allege the boys sexually assaulted the girls March 11, after the girls became intoxicated and invited the boys over to one of the girls' homes while her mother was out shopping.

        The controversial case sparked public outcry early on when Chief Juvenile Magistrate Erik Peters released the boys from custody and approved their return to Mason Middle School. The six teens, who are 14, all were eighth-graders there.

        After objections from prosecutors, the boys agreed to be tutored at home.

        However, defense lawyers now want the three boys back in school. They will ask a judge in an upcoming hearing to allow the teens admission to Mason High School when the school year starts Tuesday.

        “This home schooling stuff is not only a strain on the parents involved, but also on the kids,” Mr. Fox said.

        “They are basically ostracized. They are being punished without any conviction.”


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