A 16-year-old boy accused of dragging a 14-year-old girl by her backpack into a Woodlawn High School bathroom and then raping her has been cleared.
A Baton Rouge juvenile judge agreed to dismiss the forcible rape charge in June at the request of the teen’s defense team. The prosecution did not object because the case had not been brought to trial within 90 days as required by law, an assistant district attorney said.
But even though that charge was dismissed, another Baton Rouge teen, Dwayne Reed, 19, remains jailed on a count stemming from the incident. He is accused of serving as a “lookout” while the 16-year-old and the girl were inside the bathroom.
Video surveillance shows Reed standing outside the bathroom after the 16-year-old boy dragged the girl inside, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
“Our office is definitely exploring going forward with Mr. Reed,” said Curtis Nelson Jr., an assistant district attorney for the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office who also serves as the office’s juvenile section chief.
Reed was booked into Parish Prison on a count of principal to forcible rape, but has not yet been formerly charged. His bail is set at $200,000.
Nelson declined to comment on specifics of the case or whether prosecutors believe a rape occurred during the Oct. 4 incident.
The fact that the charge was dismissed against the 16-year-old booked on forcible rape does not hinder prosecutors from charging Reed in the incident, Nelson said.
“The two are separate and they definitely can be handled independent of each other,” the prosecutor said.
Nelson said the District Attorney’s Office believes it has the right to refile a delinquency petition — the rough equivalent of a bill of information in district court — against the 16-year-old even though the first one was dismissed. Then again, prosecutors may decline to refile a petition, he said.
“In the past, cases have been dismissed and refiled, and the defendants have not objected,” Nelson said. Recently though, Nelson said, such refilings have been followed by objections, and there is an appeal pending on a similar matter with the state’s 1st Circuit Court of Appeal.
Jack Harrison, an attorney with the East Baton Rouge Parish Public Defender’s Office, said any such refiling in a juvenile case would be the subject of a very strong objection.
“We will always object to any petition that is not timely under the law,” Harrison said.
Nelson, the juvenile prosecutor, described the reason behind the dismissal of the charge against the 16-year-old boy as a “procedural” issue.
“We were working with the victim’s family and just simply ran out of time,” Nelson said, referencing the deadline for prosecutors to begin juvenile trials within 90 days of the appearance hearing, which is the equivalent of an arraignment in district court.
When the incident occurred at Woodlawn, school officials decided to keep it quiet while the investigation was underway.
A School Board member and at least one parent of a student at the school questioned in December why they weren’t notified sooner about the alleged rape. Also, a student told a reporter she and her fellow students should have been notified sooner, if for no other reason than as a security precaution.
The school’s principal defended the decision to keep the matter secret at the time — at least temporarily while the investigation unfolded — to reduce the chance of it being compromised.
Attempts to reach Reed’s family this week were unsuccessful.
Reed hasn’t been in jail long in Baton Rouge. After the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office issued an arrest warrant for him in December, which is how the incident became public, authorities in Orleans Parish arrested him on an unrelated matter.
Reed spent months jailed in Orleans Parish and eventually pleaded guilty in July to several counts of simple burglary. He received a suspended sentence of four years with three years of probation, which expires in July 2017, according to a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections.
Reed likely won’t face jail time because of the burglary convictions as long as he stays out of trouble throughout his probation period.
* This story was edited after it was posted to change a quote from prosecutor Curtis Nelson Jr.
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