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Stafford prosecutor muzzled on rape case
Circuit judge grants motion to block Stafford prosecutor Eric Olsen from commenting on information in teen's file

Date published: 3/10/2009

By PAMELA GOULD

Stafford Circuit Judge J. Martin Bass stayed a juvenile court judge's ruling yesterday, blocking Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Eric Olsen from commenting on the records of a teen he prosecuted on a rape charge in 2007.

The teen's alleged victim recanted her accusation more than two months after the former Aquia Harbour resident was convicted of rape and breaking and entering and ordered held by the Department of Juvenile Justice. The girl's mother has since been attempting to correct what she views as a miscarriage of justice.

Attempts by two previous attorneys to get the boy's charges overturned failed.

Now, attorneys with the Innocence Project of the University of Virginia Law School and JustChildren, a child advocacy group in Charlottesville, have taken up the effort, including seeking to get his name removed from the state's sex offender registry.

On Feb. 25, the boy, now 17, was released from the Department of Juvenile Justice weeks ahead of his earliest possible release date. The agency's director ordered it after receiving a Jan. 22 letter from the teen's current legal team--Deirdre Enright of the Innocence Project and Andrew K. Block Jr. of JustChildren--laying out their investigation into what they believed was a wrongful conviction.

Olsen is seeking permission to comment publicly on the case to address what he called "inaccurate and incomplete" information provided to The Free Lance-Star for a Feb. 5 article.

Yesterday, in Stafford Circuit Court, Olsen argued against the stay of Juvenile Court Judge Julian W. Johnson's Feb. 27 ruling saying the teen's attorneys were intentionally spreading false information.

Specifically, Olsen said the attorneys know the purported victim is incapable of legally consenting to sexual contact because of her age and mental abilities, making her recantation irrelevant.

Olsen claimed she has the mental capacity of a 7- or 8-year-old and was under 13 at the time of the June 2007 incident inside her home.

The girl's mother has said she's been classified as "borderline" mentally retarded and was 14 at the time of the incident.

The boy's IQ is only 7 points higher than the girl's, according to his attorneys.

Block yesterday argued that granting Olsen permission to comment on his client's confidential information would have a "chilling impact" on free speech rights.

He said anyone who dared to criticize the prosecution's handling of a case--including this girl's mother--would fear his or her child's confidential information would be released as a result.

At the conclusion of a 42-minute hearing, Bass granted the defense's request to block Olsen from reviewing the boy's pre- and post-conviction information and making public comment. He scheduled a full appeal of the matter for April. 17.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972
Email: pgould@freelancestar.com