Prosecutors won't charge three Carol City High students who were suspected of raping a 14-year-old classmate in campus bathrooms in a case that raised questions about how schools police and district officials handled the investigation.
The reason: the girl gave numerous conflicting versions of whether the encounters with the boys were consensual or not, making it difficult to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office said in a final report on the investigation released Monday.
"There is no reason to believe that she made false statements with any degree of malice or criminal intent," prosecutors wrote in the 19-page report. "[She] is clearly a victim in this matter. It appears that her inconsistencies perhaps are due to embarrassment over being involved in these incidents and made with the hope of appeasing her mother ..."
"Nevertheless, the victim's inconsistent statements about what happened to her did affect the State's ability to file charges against the suspects."
The case came to light earlier this year when the girl's mother went public to criticize how the school district handled the case.
School officials learned from the girl's friends that her daughter might have been sexually assaulted on three dates in late October and early November. In written statements, the three teenage boys claimed the encounters were consensual and they were suspended for 10 days for "inappropriate sexual behavior on campus," according to the report.
The school district did not ask prosecutors to initiate a review of the case until February, after the mother first spoke to WSVN-7. The mother later shared her account with the Herald in an interview conducted in English and Spanish at her home in Miami Gardens. Her name and her daughter’s name are being withheld to protect their identities.
The mother was upset that a school police officer questioned the girl for hours without notifying her parents, and claimed that the officer pressured her into saying the encounters were consensual.
The school resource officer, Jules Etienne, said that when he first interviewed the girl, she never said the acts were forced. When she penned a written version of what happened, Etienne said, he noticed that the statement said "some of the activity was forced."
In the final incident, the girl wrote that she went into the bathroom with one student but that their encounter got out of hand. “I told him to stop,” she wrote. “I got him by his jacket and pushed him back.”
Etienne questioned her again and said she insisted the encounters were consensual — so he had her add two more sentences attesting to it in her written account, according to the report. Etienne also admitted that he took statements from three students who had reported the incidents, but left them in his car trunk and failed to report them to investigators.
Prosecutors determined that at least one encounter in the bathroom was consensual — but the other two encounters were less clear. She characterized the events differently in talking to assistant principals, teachers and police officers, according to the report.
"[The victim's] inconsistent statements about whether the sex acts with the three boys were coerced or not represent a significant conflict in the evidence," prosecutors Todd Bass and Stephanie Aycart-Messier wrote. "Accordingly, it is the belief that we will not be able to meet our burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that [she] was coerced into engaging in sex."