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Effort to clear teen is rejected

October 29, 2010 12:35 am

By PAMELA GOULD

Efforts to clear the name of a former Aquia Harbour teen who spent 17 months incarcerated for a crime his victim recanted suffered a setback yesterday.

Stafford Circuit Judge Charles S. Sharp dismissed a habeas corpus petition filed by a team of attorneys representing the teen.

Sharp ruled that he did not have jurisdiction in the case, noting that the teen is no longer incarcerated or on parole.

During the hearing, Sharp pressed the teen's attorney Jeremy Byrum to explain what remedies he would have at his disposal if he had jurisdiction, which the attorney general's office argued he did not.

Byrum ultimately said Sharp could set aside the conviction.

After yesterday's hearing, the teen's attorneys said they will appeal the ruling and will continue fighting to clear his name and remove it from the state's sex offender registry.

"He's disappointed. We're disappointed," said Deirdre Enright, director of investigations for the Innocence Project at the University of Virginia's law school.

"Yet another court has closed its doors to [our client] so we can't pretend to be surprised."

The Free Lance-Star is not identifying the teen. Though he is now an adult, he is referred to in court and by attorneys by his initials to protect his identity.

THE CASE

The teen was 15 in June 2007 when a Stafford deputy accused him of breaking into the home of a 14-year-old neighbor and raping her.

The accusations began when the girl's mother returned home and found the boy downstairs and her daughter in her bedroom partially undressed.

Defense attorney Denise Rafferty, who represented the teen in juvenile court, advised him to plead guilty to avoid the risk of being tried as an adult as prosecutor Eric Olsen was threatening.

The teen followed that advice despite denying the accusations.

Two months after he was sentenced, the girl told her mother she was friends with the boy, invited him inside and wasn't raped.

The girl's mother then notified Rafferty and has spoken out in an effort to correct what she considers an injustice.

'FIGHT TO THE END'

Four attorneys and half a dozen law students were in court yesterday on the teen's behalf, from the McGuire Woods law firm, the Innocence Project and advocacy group JustChildren.

As part of their effort to clear the teen's name, they are accusing Rafferty of ineffective counsel and filed affidavits from the teen, his parents and two other teens she represented.

The teen's family faults her for not meeting with them except just before hearings, not investigating the accusations and not looking into the prosecutor's claim that his alleged victim was incapable of consenting to sex.

One of the other teens is also on the sex offender registry after an incident his purported victim says was an accident that occurred while the two were goofing off inside a Stafford County classroom.

Rafferty was in the courtroom yesterday, taking notes. She declined to comment on the case.

The teen and his mother were in the courthouse for yesterday's hearing. While both were disheartened by the hearing's outcome, Cherri Dulaney, who has a different last name, was resolved to press ahead to clear her child's name.

"I'll fight this to the end," she said.

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





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