(WASHINGTON) — Four sophomore junior varsity football players from a Maryland high school have been charged with rape for allegedly sexually assaulting freshman players with a broom, according to court records.
The alleged incident occurred on Oct. 31 at Damascus High School, according to charging documents filed in Montgomery County court. The high school’s principal “reported an assault involving a broom” the next day, the document states.
The students being charged are Jean Claude “JC” Abedi, Kristian “KJ” Jamal Lee, Will Daniel Smith, and Caleb Thorpe. All four are 15 years old, but are being charged as adults, prosecutors said.
The first victim of the sexual assault told investigators that he was inside the freshman locker room getting ready for football practice when someone turned off the lights, according to the arrest warrant. Abedi and Lee then allegedly approached him while holding a broom with tan bristles and a wooden handle, the charging documents state.
Abedi and Lee then allegedly grabbed the victims by his shoulders and threw him onto the floor, with one of them holding his feet down, according to the court documents. His pants were pulled down, and either Abedi or Lee allegedly sexually assaulted him with the broom, the charging document states.
The victim said that during the attack, Abedi and Lee were “both laughing,” even as the victim shouted “let me go,” according to the arrest report. Abedi and Lee then removed the broomstick and “proceeded to do the same thing to other male members” of the JV football team, according to the arrest warrant.
The second victim who was assaulted told police that he saw Abedi and Lee pull down the first victim’s pants and then sexually assault him with the broom, the charging document states.
Someone in the locker room then “stated that it would be good to do it to” the second victim, too, before Abedi, Lee and Smith allegedly held the second victim face down on a locker room bench, pulled down his uniform practice pants and boxers and “‘stabbed’ his buttocks several times,” according to the court documents.
When the second victim told the suspects to stop, Smith allegedly replied that it was “tradition” before moving on to the third victim, according to the arrest warrant.
The suspects then allegedly pulled the third victim’s hoodie “over the top of his head, punched him in the face, knocked him on his back and stomped on him,” the charging document states.
The charging documents characterized another student who was involved as both a victim and suspect. That student was not identified “because he is a juvenile and is not being charged as an adult,” according to the arrest warrants. The status of his case, or what he is being charged with, are unclear.
The suspects allegedly “rushed” to the unnamed student, but he “fought them off him,” according to the arrest warrants. As one of the suspects tried to poke the unnamed student “with the broomstick on his football girdle and practice pants,” someone yelled, “Coach is coming!” and everyone ran away, the charging document states.
The unnamed student told police that “he was messing around” and “trying to push the broomstick” into one of the victims “a little bit,” according to the court documents.
The third victim told investigators that he had heard people refer to the act in the past as “giving the broom to people.” That victim stated that Abedi attempted to remove his pants, but he “would not let him,” adding that “he was able to stop them,” the arrest warrant states.
Abedi later told police that they “talked about the broom to scare” the freshmen, and that “the broom is always in the locker room,” according to the court document.
Thorpe allegedly confessed to police that he assisted in bringing the second victim to the ground and that he “laid on” him “for a second.” He also stated that he was watching from outside the locker room when the first victim was being stomped on and he confessed to sitting on top of the first victim’s face and pushing him, according to the charging documents.
Lee and Smith also admitted to authorities that they had some involvement in the incident, the arrest warrants state.
Prosecutors said in court Monday that when one of the victims tried to escape, Thorpe blocked him, ABC News’ Washington, D.C. affiliate WJLA reported.
Members of the JV football team also discussed the incident in a group chat on Snapchat, Thorpe allegedly told police.
All four suspects are charged with first-degree rape for one of the victims, three counts of attempted first-degree rape for the other victims and conspiracy to commit first-degree rape, charging documents show. They were arrested on Nov. 1, the charging document states. Abedi, Lee and Smith were arrested on Nov. 1 after the attack was reported.
The suspects initially faced charges for less serious offenses in juvenile court, but they will now be charged as adults after the charges were amended, The Washington Post reported.
The suspects made their first court appearances for a bond review on Monday via video conference calls from the jail. A judge granted them each a $20,000 bond, WJLA reported. They have not yet entered pleas.
Lee, Smith and Thorpe were released on bond on Tuesday afternoon, and Abedi was expected to be released later that evening, a spokeswoman at the Montgomery County Jail told ABC News.
Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy cautioned reporters against referring to the incident as “hazing” in a press conference Monday.
“I’m offended by the term hazing,” McCarthy said. “It’s not hazing. These are crimes, and I would caution anyone to refer to this as hazing.”
McCarthy added that prosecutors would be looking into the possibility “that this happened in prior years.”
Montgomery County Deputy State’s Attorney Peter Feeney said in court that “each defendant played a significant role in carrying out their plan to sexually assault the victims,” adding that “the crimes could only have been committed with the active participation of each defendant,” according to WJLA.
Smith’s attorney, David Felsen, described him as a “respectful, polite and well-intentioned young man.”
“We look forward to the opportunity to explain that to the court at the appropriate time,” Felsen told ABC News. “All of this has been extremely difficult for him and his family.”
Felsen said he has filed the documents seeking to have Smith’s case transferred back to juvenile court.
Shelly Brown, who is representing Thorpe, described him in a statement to ABC News as “an honor student from a loving family.”
Brown reiterated that Thorpe is a 15-year-old who “should be treated as a child in the justice system.”
“As echoed by the Supreme Court in Roper b. Simmons 543 U.S. 551, (2005) written by Justice Kenny,” Brown’s statement read. “The Court found that children should be treated differently than adults in the justice system. We will continue to fight to ensure that Caleb’s rights will be protected. We must also remember that Caleb is presumed innocent.”
Abedi’s attorney, Daniel Wright, said in court that peer pressure led his client to act out and blamed the incident on lack of adult supervision, WJLA reported. Abedi has been expelled from school, Wright said in court, according to WJLA.
“Jean-Claude is a young man who is caught up in case that is larger than him,” Wright told ABC News. “One can only ask: where was the adult supervision in the school? How is it that there was no coach in the locker room when a group of 14- and 15-year old boys were there in the afternoon during school hours? Why is the school and the state seeking to fix all of the blame only on children?”
Lee’s attorney, Jason Downs, said in court that his client has no prior criminal record and is averaging all Bs in his honors classes, according to WJLA. Downs also emphasized that his client appears to have less of an involvement in the crimes than the three other named suspects.
Downs did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
On Monday, Damascus High School Principal Casey Crouse sent a letter home to parents notifying them of the incident, according to WJLA.
“This act is extremely upsetting and clearly demonstrates an attempt to harm the well-being of DHS students, staff and community, the letter, obtained by WJLA, read. “An investigation is underway and any person found responsible for this will be assigned consequences according to all applicable laws and in accordance with the MCPS Code of Conduct.”
Authorities executed a search warrant from the locker room and collected a wooden broomstick as evidence, according to the court documents.
A spokesman for Montgomery County Public Schools did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
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