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Recant case ruling delayed

February 20, 2009 12:35 am

BY KEITH EPPS

Stafford County prosecutor Eric Olsen yesterday urged a judge to allow him to discuss publicly a juvenile rape case he prosecuted in 2007.

Olsen argued in Stafford Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court that a Feb. 5 Free Lance-Star article about the case had several inaccuracies that "cry out for some kind of response."

But Olsen told Judge Julian Johnson that he might be breaking the law to address his concerns publicly without the judge's authorization.

Andrew K. Block Jr., a lawyer who is representing the teen, opposes Olsen's motion, saying among other things that his request is too broad and vague.

"[Olsen's] disagreement with people's opinions of this case does not justify the release of confidential information," Block argued.

At the end of the hearing, Johnson said he would take the case under advisement and prepare a written order in a few days.

The Innocence Project of the University of Virginia Law School and JustChildren, a child advocacy group, are trying to have the boy released from custody, his conviction overturned and his name removed from the state sex offender registry.

Supporters say the boy, who has been locked up for about a year and a half, was wrongfully convicted based in part on the word of a mentally handicapped teenage girl who has since recanted her allegations.

The victim's mother, the boy's parents and his lawyers were quoted in the story that Olsen has referred to.

The father said he encouraged that boy to plead guilty because he feared that he would be tried as an adult.

Olsen cited to the judge several things that need to be addressed, including allegations that his office never interviewed the girl and that the boy's race was a factor in the prosecution.

The boy is black and the girl is white.

Olsen said he was particularly upset that the article implied that he took advantage of the boy's limited intelligence in securing a conviction.

The prosecutor told the judge that there is no evidence that the boy has any mental disabilities, and he said the parents didn't mention any in interviews prior to his sentencing.

Olsen told the judge that without the authority to discuss the case, he would be unable to talk about the boy's confession to police in which he reportedly said the he knew the girl was handicapped and "knew what he was doing was wrong.

"This defendant was caught red-handed raping a handicapped child and he knew it was wrong," Olsen said. "That's why he pleaded guilty."

Block said he understands that Olsen isn't pleased with the bad publicity, but he said that was no reason to violate the boy's rights.

He pointed out that the girl and her mother are both now saying the sex was consensual.

The boy was 15 and the girl was 14 in June 2007 when her mother came home and found him there and her daughter getting dressed.

The mother initially believed her daughter had been sexually assaulted and called police.

But more than two months after the boy was sentenced, her daughter said she had lied about the incident because she feared getting into trouble.

The mother then reported the girl's new story to the boy's attorney. Efforts to get the boy out of jail have been unsuccessful so far.

Keith Epps: 540/374-5404
Email: kepps@freelancestar.com





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