Thursday, September 07, 2000

Boy's lawyer blasts police

Felonies dropped against two boys

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — As prosecutors dropped serious sex charges Wednesday against the remaining two Mason boys accused of assaulting three female classmates, a lawyer for one of the 14-year-old boys criticized police, saying they conducted a shoddy investigation.

        Attorney Jeff Meadows said he thinks the felony charges should never have been pursued.

        “Police ignored their duties,” Mr. Meadows said. “Detective (Don) Cope received enough information early on that should have given him cause to do further investigation.”

        Prosecutors agreed to dismiss felony charges — including rape, sexual battery and complicity to those offenses — and allowed the boys to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

        The conviction mirrored the verdict in a third boy's trial, which was released late Tuesday afternoon.

        That ruling, prosecutors said, weighed heavily on their decision to end a complicated case which started in early March.

        “After reviewing the decision by the court in the one case, we discussed what impact it would have on the other two trials. After discussing it with victims and police, we decided to offer it,” Warren County Assistant Prosecutor Andy Sievers said.

        Authorities said the girls were sexually assaulted March 11 when they became intoxicated and the boys visited the home of one of the girls while her mother was shopping.

        An assistant principal at Mason Middle School, where the six were eighth-graders, reported the incident after gossip began circulating around the school.

        Det. Cope, the lead investigator on the case, declined comment on Mr. Meadows' remarks.

        Mr. Sievers acknowledged that the investigation was incomplete, but said it was because “numerous” acquaintances of the boys refused to talk to police and prosecutors.

        He would not discuss Det. Cope's involvement in the initial investigation, saying, “I don't know about that.”

        “Our office is independent of the police department. We attempted to interview these people early on and they refused. We were given one side of the story (the girls' version) up front which gave us probable cause to file the charges,” Mr. Sievers said.

        “Our continuing investigation was thwarted by the reluctance of witnesses to meet with authorities. That would have given more information to evaluate to decide if we should proceed with the original charges.”

        All three boys will be sentenced Sept. 13 in Warren County Juvenile Court. Prosecutors and defense lawyers said they doubt that the boys will be placed in detention. Meanwhile, they remain on house arrest except to attend Mason High School and to participate in sports.

        Parents of one of the girls said they were disappointed by the out come, but not surprised.

        “It is apparent by the way this whole case has been handled that not much has changed where victims' rights or the protection of victims is concerned,” the couple said.

        The case, they said, has taken an emotional toll on the girls.

        Parents of the two boys who were in court Wednesday said they were pleased with the outcome.

        “We'll just try to get our life back to normal again,” said one mother.

        “I have been the one all along to say the truth is going to set us free and that's what happened.”


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