You probably heard about the horrible and politically charged rape case out of Maryland which was reported back in March. Two immigrant students, at least one of whom was in the country illegally (the other claims to be on a special student program, but the details are unclear), were accused of luring a 14 year old girl into a school bathroom, sexually assaulting her, filming it and sending the video around. Many conservative outlets as well as the White House pointed to the case as yet another example of why we need to crack down on illegal immigration. (Which isn’t really up for debate in any event… we do need to.)

The Maryland case took a shocking turn this week, however, when Maryland authorities announced that most of the charges were being dropped and the story wasn’t as it first seemed. (CBS Baltimore)

Montgomery County prosecutors made the bombshell decision to drop rape charges against two teenagers who are undocumented immigrants.

17-year-old Jose Montano and 18-year-old Henry Sanchez Milian came to the United States illegally through Central America just months before police alleged they sexually assaulted a 14-year-old classmate inside Rockville High School in March.

Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy says the facts in the case do not support the charges.

“We have concluded that the facts in this case do not support the original charges filed in this matter, do to [sic] the lack of corroboration and substantial inconsistencies from the facts that we have obtained from multiple sources since the filing of the original charging document.

How the charges could suddenly be dropped was immediately both shocking and outrageous to me. It just didn’t make sense. CNN covered the story further and included some comments from the prosecutor which simply flew in the face of reality. (Emphasis added)

Defense attorneys had said that the sexual encounter between the defendants and the 14-year-old girl was consensual.

“There were no scratches, no bruises. There was no hitting, there was no screaming, there was no running immediately to some sort of security officer,” Sanchez-Milian’s attorney Andrew Jezic said at the time.

Sanchez-Milian allegedly received sexually explicit images from the 17-year-old student also charged in the case.

Okay, so several of the key elements of the original allegations have clearly changed. Apparently the 14 year old girl wasn’t physically forced into the stall and was, perhaps, actively participating in the sexual encounters. Also, according to this new information, she filmed the abuse herself and sent the video to the two assailants who then passed it around further. But none of this changes one underlying fact which nobody involved in the investigation seems to be mentioning. It’s still rape, or at least it most certainly should be.

The age of consent in Maryland is 16 and at least until recently they didn’t have any form of “Romeo and Juliet law” which provides exceptions for children engaged in sexual activity who are close to the same age. Unfortunately it looks like they later included a provision which states that a fourteen year old can “give consent” if the other person is within four years of her age. In this case the girl is fourteen and the two individuals who assaulted her were 17 and 18. At least one, if not both, are legally adults. This is statutory rape in concept if not by definition in Maryland, even if some states are bending the rules. We’ve had an accepted premise in this country for some time now that the sex in a case like this could not have been consensual because a 14 year old child can not legally give meaningful consent.

Clearly something had already gone horribly wrong in that child’s home if she found it to be an acceptable idea to engage in sexual activity with an adult male in a bathroom, to say nothing of filming the event and forwarding the file. But that doesn’t make it her fault. That’s a shortcoming in the family and the community which does not excuse the behavior of either of the men who did this. But the media is somehow treating this story as a case of “Trump being wrong” about blaming illegal immigrants. Sending around child pornography (the rapists did forward the video even if they didn’t record it themselves) is still a serious charge and it’s more than sufficient grounds to deport the illegal immigrant in question.

But even if leave aside all of the politics and immigration policy, it’s time for Maryland and other states to take a fresh look at their statutory rape laws. The exceptions I mentioned above were supposed to be designed so that high school sweethearts who are within a couple years of age and foolishly engage in adult sexual activity wouldn’t wind up going to jail. I completely support those types of exceptions and feel that it’s up to the family to teach children right from wrong in such circumstances. But these two men were not this young girl’s “boyfriends” and if existing law allows for something like this to happen and see them walk free, the wheels have come off the legal cart.