01:07 - Source: WJLA
School officials speak out on rape incident

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Two students arrested in Maryland high school rape investigation

NEW: Attorney of undocumented student claims his client was wrongly accused

CNN  — 

News that one of the two Maryland high school students accused of raping a schoolmate was allegedly in the country unlawfully has caught the attention of the White House.

The student, 18-year-old Henry Sanchez-Milian, was arrested Thursday at Rockville High School in Rockville, Maryland, along with 17-year-old classmate Jose Montano. Both students are being charged as adults with first-degree rape and two counts each of committing a first-degree sexual offense, Montgomery County Police said.

Andrew Jezic, attorney for Sanchez-Milian, told CNN on Friday, his client will plead not guilty because “this was a pre-planned, consensual and non-forcible encounter.”

“There were no scratches, no bruises. There was no hitting, there was no screaming, there was no running immediately to some sort of security officer,” Jezic said.

After Sanchez-Milian’s arrest, ICE issued an immigration detainer, an order to local law enforcement to hold a suspect for a pending immigration review.

Jezic believes his client will be acquitted in a jury trial and plans to claim asylum for Sanchez-Milian following the criminal proceedings.

“My client and his brother fled gang violence in Guatemala,” Jezic said.

The rape allegations come less than a month after President Donald Trump directed the Department of Homeland Security to create an office tasked with focusing on crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. Asked about the allegations at a Tuesday briefing, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the case was “horrendous and horrible and disgusting.”

Asked about the story at a Tuesday briefing, White House press secretary Sean Spicer called the crime “horrendous and horrible and disgusting.”

“I think part of the reason the President has made illegal immigration and crackdown such a big deal is because of tragedies like this,” he said.

But school district officials in Maryland have rejected the notion the incident has implications for immigration policy.

“While some would try to make this into a question and issue of immigration, what comes down here is we serve every student who walks through our door,” said Jack R. Smith, superintendent of the Montgomery County Public Schools. “We are a public school system, and we serve all of our students when they come to us.”

“People choose to do very bad things,” Smith said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference. “Mostly, they don’t choose to do them in schools, but sometimes they do. And that is horrible, it’s unacceptable, its tragic, but schools – relative to the rest of the world – are among the most safe places we can be in our community. “

Spicer nonetheless called for a review of school guidelines.

“The President recognizes that education is a state-run and a local-run issue but I think it is – it is cause for concern, what happened there. And I think that the city should look at its policies and I think that this is something that authorities are going to have to look at.”

In his response, the press secretary also characterized the victim as a person who chose to come to America legally.

“This young woman, in particular, fought to come to this country legally because of the freedoms and the treasures of this nation,” he said. “And to think that this kind of tragedy would occur to someone who’s personally endured that kind of struggle to come to this nation and then face this is reprehensible.”

On that point, however, Montgomery County Police Capt. James Humphries called the White House’s narrative into question.

“I have no information that she is anything other than a US citizen,” he said of the unnamed victim. “There’s no information at all that she has any kind of immigrant status whatsoever.”

Matthew Bourke, a spokesman for ICE, said Sanchez-Milian, a citizen of Guatemala, was stopped by a border patrol agent in Rio Grande Valley, Texas, in August 2016. Bourke said Sanchez-Milian was detained for 12 days before being placed with the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which reunited him with his family in Maryland.

Sanchez-Milian’s attorney told CNN his client was held for four weeks by ICE and was put on a Baltimore-bound flight by ICE officers to reunite him with his father, who has lived in the United States for 14 years.

Jezic also confirmed that Sanchez-Milian’s family paid for the Baltimore-bound flight from Texas.

At that time, the agent determined that Sanchez-Milian was in the United States illegally, having crossed over from Mexico without proper documentation. Sanchez-Milian was ordered to appear before an immigration judge. That hearing has yet to be scheduled.

“ICE fully vetted him. They determined that he wasn’t a gang member and didn’t have a criminal record in his country,” Jezic told CNN. “He didn’t have a criminal record here. He hadn’t been deported before. He had no gang ties.”

Bourke said such a delay in an immigration hearing was “not atypical” and that Sanchez-Milian had been free to travel in the interim. “There are a lot of people waiting to see an immigration judge,” he said.

“There are a lot of people waiting to see an immigration judge,” he said.

According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, more than half a million cases are pending in immigration courts across the United States.

Sanchez-Milian is due in court on April 14. Montano has a hearing scheduled for March 31.

The alleged rape took place in a school bathroom on March 16.

According to the alleged victim, the younger of the two suspects solicited her for sex in a school hallway. When she refused, he forced her into a boy’s bathroom. Both the suspects then allegedly raped her inside a bathroom stall.

Sanchez-Milian is due in court on April 14. Montano has a hearing scheduled for March 31.

CNN’s Julian Cummings and Nicole Chavez contributed to this report.