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By PAMELA GOULD
A former Aquia Harbour teen whose alleged rape victim recanted has been released ahead of schedule by the state Department of Juvenile Justice.
The boy, who is now 17, was released one week ago from a facility in Hanover County after spending 17 months in custody. The Department of Juvenile Justice had classified him as a "major offender" and given him a sentence ranging from 18 to 36 months.
Yesterday, the mother of the girl who recanted her allegation, called the early release "a first step" in rectifying the situation.
"I was relieved but I still feel bad because it's not the end of the road for him," said Michele Sousa.
The Free Lance-Star is not naming the teens because of the nature of the charges. Their parents have different surnames.
The boy's parents contacted Deirdre Enright, director of the Innocence Project at the University of Virginia Law School, late last year after appeals by two previous attorneys failed to get the case overturned.
On Jan. 22, Enright and Andrew K. Block Jr., legal director of JustChildren, a child advocacy program of the Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville, sent a letter to Juvenile Justice Director Barry Green laying out their investigation into the case and their grounds for a claim of wrongful conviction. They asked Green to exercise his authority to release the teen, which he did.
The attorneys are also seeking to get the teen's convictions erased and his name removed from the state's sex offender registry. Green's decision to release the teen does not impact those issues.
In a separate matter, Stafford Juvenile Court Judge Julian W. Johnson issued a ruling late Friday giving prosecutor Eric Olsen permission to review records related to the boy's case and comment publicly on their contents. The ruling does not go into effect for 10 days from its release and does not open the records to public inspection.
Olsen made the request after a Feb. 5 report in The Free Lance-Star in which the boy's attorneys alleged he had been wrongfully convicted.
Olsen could not be reached for comment yesterday, but said in his motion he wanted to correct what he considered "inaccurate and incomplete information."
Block declined yesterday to comment on the ruling.
On Aug. 22, 2007, the boy pleaded guilty in Stafford juvenile court to charges of rape and breaking and entering in exchange for the prosecution's agreement to drop an abduction charge and a plan to pursue the case in adult court.
The Stafford County prosecutor's office had notified the family two weeks after the alleged incident of its plan to seek to try the teen as an adult.
Edgar Dulaney, the boy's father told The Free Lance-Star he authorized the guilty plea despite complete confidence in his son's innocence in order to avoid the possibility the teen could end up in an adult prison.
Dulaney said he feared for his son's safety if he were sent to an adult facility and that his son's court-appointed attorney recommended they accept the plea bargain.
The boy's parents could not be reached for comment after his release.
Sousa said she returned to her Aquia Harbour home on June 4, 2007, to find the 15-year-old boy inside the home and her 14-year-old daughter getting dressed.
She immediately contacted the Stafford Sheriff's Office, believing her child had been sexually assaulted.
But on Thanksgiving weekend--more than two months after the boy had been sentenced to a juvenile facility--the girl told her mother she lied about the incident because she feared getting into trouble.
Sousa then contacted an attorney to begin working to rectify the situation.
Attempts by court-appointed attorney Denise Rafferty to get the issue addressed in court failed as did attempts by a second attorney, Fredericksburg lawyer Joseph Brown.
"There's still a lot to be done," Sousa said.
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972