By MATTHEW BARAKAT
LEESBURG, Va. (AP) — A northern Virginia teenager found guilty of sexually assaulting two female classmates at separate schools was ordered Wednesday to attend a locked, residential treatment facility until he turns 18.
The 15-year-old boy also was ordered to be placed on the sex offender registry at a hearing Wednesday in Loudoun County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, a step the judge said she had never previously ordered in a juvenile case.
But Judge Pamela Brooks said she felt compelled to do so after reviewing psychosexual and psychological evaluations of the boy conducted after he was found guilty of the assaults.
“Yours scared me,” she said of the reports. “I don’t know how else to put it. They scared me for yourself. They scared me for your family. They scared me for society.”
The boy wept and hung his head on the table after the judge imposed the requirement, the only part of the sentence to which his lawyer objected. Defense attorney William Mann said the lifetime stigma associated with the registry contradicts “the idea of rehabilitation for a young teenager” that he said should be the overriding goal of a juvenile proceeding.
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.
Parents were angered that there were multiple assaults. After the first one occurred in a school bathroom at Stone Bridge High School in May 2021 the boy was allowed to attend nearby Broad Run High School while he awaited trial in juvenile court. The second assault occurred in a Broad Run classroom last October.
The case also became embroiled in debate over extending protections to transgender students in schools, amid allegations that the boy had been wearing a skirt when he assaulted his classmate at Stone Bridge. At trial, prosecutors presented evidence that the boy in part blamed that assault on the fact that he accidentally caught his knee-length skirt on his watch while locked in a bathroom stall with the girl, according to news reports. The boy’s sexuality or gender was not an issue in Thursday’s hearing.
The Associated Press is not naming the boy or the girls because it generally doesn’t identify underage defendants or victims of sexual assault.
At Thursday’s hearing, the judge’s decision to send the boy to a residential treatment facility rather than juvenile jail came after both victims and their families said they wanted the boy to get help. The judge called that gesture by the families “very brave and generous.”
“I could say you belong in a cell,” the Stone Bridge victim said on the witness stand. “I believe you belong in a program.”
The girl’s father also called for the boy to get help, and to make the most of treatment.
At the outset of his statement, he spoke harshly toward the boy, saying “you disgust me.”
As he looked directly at the boy while giving his victim-impact testimony, though, his rhetoric softened a little.
“You could change. I don’t believe you’re a monster,” he said as the boy broke down in tears. “This is the first time I’ve seen you. I thought you’d look like a monster, but you don’t.”
The mother of the second victim read a victim-impact statement from her daughter, who said she befriended the boy at Broad Run even though he wore an ankle monitor.
“Why me? Did I look like an easy target?” the girl asked. “I feel like all of this has pushed me back into my shell I worked so hard to get out of.”
Before he was sentenced, the boy apologized to the girls and their families, looking at them directly but not saying their names. He said he hadn’t realized how he had hurt them until he heard their statements.
“I will never hurt anyone like this again,” he said.
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