Damascus H.S. rape suspect claims prior hazing clouded his judgment, wins judge's favor

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    Two days before his juvenile waiver hearing, Damascus High School rape suspect Caleb Thorpe came public with claims that members of the school’s revered football program had hazed him too.

    Thorpe — who is currently a sophomore — stated that he was hazed during his freshman JV football season. That experience clouded the teenager's judgment, causing him to conflate sexual assault with hazing, psychologist Dr. Susan Lipkin wrote in a report presented to Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Steven Salant in advance of Thursday's waiver hearing.

    “He really believed that it was a right of passage," stated Thorpe's defense attorney, Sherry L. Brown. “This is clearly a pattern that’s been going on for years."

    Yet, when asked by reporters to specify what kind of hazing Thorpe allegedly fell victim to, Brown refused.

    “I’m not going to go through the specific facts... I’m just going to say he was hazed. I’m going to leave it at that.”

    Reporters proceeded to ask Brown why Thorpe did not notify school leaders about his hazing when it first happened. Her response: fear and a lack of protocol.

    “He stated that he didn’t report it because he didn’t want to be labeled a 'snitch' or a 'punk.' Obviously if you’re on a football team, you want to play, you want to be part of a team, and there was really no one there to help him."

    Thorpe's eleventh-hour revelation appeared to raise suspicions within the ranks of the Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office. After all, the 15-year-old never disclosed a tradition of hazing when questioned by detectives at the onset of the broomstick rape case.

    “He did not tell that to the police originally. That’s new information," said Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy. "Is it reliable? Is it credible? That’s something we will look at.”

    Thorpe's expanded story — and the report generated by Dr. Lipkin — certainly seemed to have an effect on Judge Salant who opted to waive the teen back to juvenile court. That transfer will likely lessen the severity of Thorpe's anticipated sentence. Thorpe rejoins Will Smith, 15, and Kristian Jamal "KJ" Lee, 15, both of whom already had their cases moved back to juvenile court.

    “He did not perceive hazing as a rape or conspiracy," Dr. Lipkin wrote in her report. “[He is an] immature adolescent who himself was hazed one year ago, and blindly followed the instructions of the leaders of the JV football team.”

    To that point, Brown opined that prosecutors overcharged her client, and his co-defendants, arguing that sodomy with a wooden broomstick was not really rape.

    “We believe it should have been charged as a hazing. There’s a hazing statute in Maryland, and I’ve given a copy to the media. If you look at that statute, that statute is on point to what allegedly occurred in this case.”

    The father of one victim took great offense to Brown's interpretation of the law, as did McCarthy.

    “They are sexual assault victims. I would hope because they’re young boys — and not young girls — we don’t have a different standard of protecting the young men that live in this community then we do for protecting the young women that live in this community," McCarthy added.

    On Tuesday, J.C. Abedi — the rumored "ring leader" in the broomstick locker room attacks — is scheduled to have his waiver hearing. Sources say that unlike his alleged accomplices, the department of juvenile services' report recommends Abedi remain in the adult system. The public agency came to that conclusion, in part, based on Abedi's juvenile criminal record, which includes robbery.

    “I think one of the obligation that we have — and I think the judge has that obligation too — is to look at each boy individually. We have done that. I think there’s a distinction between the young man today, and the young man we’re going to see on Tuesday," McCarthy concluded.

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