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Will girl's rape-claim reversal clear teen? page 3
U.Va. Innocence Project and child advocacy group trying to free teen they say was wrongfully convicted of rape

 Prosecutor Olsen
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RELATED STORY: Attorney: System needs safeguards
Date published: 2/5/2009

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If the situation involving the boy and girl constituted any crime at all, it would be "at most" carnal knowledge, a misdemeanor, Block and Enright said. That law addresses sexual contact between a victim between 13 and 15 years old and a perpetrator less than three years older and "presumes a certain lack of capacity on both parties," Block said.

Sousa said since learning what actually happened, she doesn't support any criminal action.

The mother said she believes law-enforcement officials felt sorry for her daughter because of her condition and were "more forgiving of facts with her."

She also believes race was a factor. Her daughter is white; the boy is black.

But Sousa said the outcome of the case does not serve her daughter or the interest of justice, which is why she is trying to clear the boy's name.

"The fact of the matter is she needs to learn she needs to be honest and not do things that hurt other people," Sousa said of her daughter.

ADULT PRISON OR PLEA

Two weeks after the incident, Edgar Dulaney and his wife were notified by the prosecutor's office that it would seek to try their son as an adult. He said he was later told his son faced 25 years in an adult prison.

Knowing his son's gentle demeanor, age and that he had never been in trouble before, Dulaney said he didn't want him in an adult prison. So when Rafferty recommended he plead guilty instead, Dulaney said he saw no alternative despite complete confidence in his son's innocence.

"He was just 15 then. I said, 'We'll just take the deal and then I'll fight it after taking the plea.'"

On Aug. 22, 2007, the boy, who by then had turned 16, pleaded guilty to rape and breaking and entering. In exchange, prosecutor Olsen dropped an abduction charge and the possibility of adult prison but did ask that he be required to undergo sex-offender treatment and be placed on the sex-offender registry.

Teens convicted of sex offenses as juveniles are not automatically required to register as sex offenders. By law, the prosecutor must request it and a judge approve it.

On Sept. 19, 2007, the boy was given an "indeterminate" sentence and ordered both to undergo sex-offender treatment and register as a sex offender.


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Key dates in the former Aquia Harbour teen's case. June 4, 2007--Encounter between girl, 14, and boy, 15, at Aquia Harbour. June 7, 2007--Boy formally charged with rape, abduction, and breaking and entering. June 18, 2007--Stafford Commonwealth's Attorney's Office notifies boy's parents of its intent to prosecute him as an adult. June 28, 2007--Defense attorney Denise Rafferty assigned to case. Aug. 22, 2007--Boy pleads guilty to rape, breaking-and-entering charges. Abduction charge is dropped. Sept. 19, 2007--Boy sentenced, ordered to complete sex-offender treatment program and register as sex offender. Nov. 24, 2007--Girl tells her mother, Michele Sousa, she lied about the incident. Nov. 28, 2007--Michele Sousa contacts an attorney for advice. December 2007--Defense attorney Rafferty learns the girl recanted her story. March 2008--Rafferty, the girl and her mother appear in juvenile court on defense motion to set aside verdict. Judge denies it for procedural reasons. July 2008--Attorney Joseph Brown, hired to represent the boy, petitions juvenile court judge to find error in fact in case, based on the recantation. Judge denies motion. Sept. 19, 2008--Brown's appeal of juvenile court ruling heard in Stafford Circuit Court. Judge denies motion, saying his court does not have jurisdiction. December 2008--The Innocence Project at the University of Virginia Law School and JustChildren of the Legal Aid Justice Center agree to represent boy. Jan. 22--Innocence Project Director Deirdre Enright and JustChildren Legal Director Andrew K. Block Jr. send letter to Department of Juvenile Justice Director Barry R. Green asking him to release boy.

A Dec. 8 Virginia Crime Commission report shows that the vast majority of law-enforcement officials surveyed--with the exception of prosecutors--support changing Virginia's system of assigning cases against juveniles.

Currently, by statute, teens charged with certain felonies are automatically transferred to adult court for trial. For the other charges, including those brought in the Stafford County case, the prosecutor has the discretion.

On the question of giving circuit judges the ability to send juveniles back to juvenile court, 93 percent of chief public defenders, 84 percent of circuit judges, 77 percent of court service unit directors, 53 percent of juvenile-court judges and the director of the Department of Juvenile Justice supported the move. But 81 percent of prosecutors oppose it.