Not only does Governor Hogan owe a retraction of his statements about the alleged Rockville High School rape, he owes it to all of us to govern better.
The Montgomery County State’s Attorney announced that rape charges would be dropped against Henry Sanchez Milan and Jose Montano, the two undocumented teens accused of the purported sexual assault. Instead of urging calm until the facts came out like a responsible government leader should, Governor Hogan exploited the incident to further his anti-immigrant agenda, and in doing so exploited the 14-year old accuser. Even though the suspects had not been convicted, Governor Hogan took to Facebook a mere five days after the incident while the investigation was ongoing to express his outrage at “the brutal and violent rape of a 14-year old girl,” stating that “the public has a right to know how something this tragic and unacceptable was allowed to transpire in a public school.” He has yet to acknowledge his recklessness in treating it as a foregone conclusion that Milan and Montano committed a brutal rape and has yet to remove the statement from his Facebook page. He needs to do it now.
Governor Hogan’s words not only fed anti-immigrant sentiment, they likely affected the fate of the Maryland Trust Act. That piece of legislation, which failed to pass, would have prohibited police from stopping someone simply to inquire about their immigration status. Instead of addressing whether the Trust Act would have decreased racial profiling or improved relations between law enforcement and immigrant communities, Governor Hogan expressed incredulity that the bill was even proposed “days after this girl was raped by these two young men who were in the country illegally.”
A leader who cherishes due process of law would have recognized that our justice system means innocent until proven guilty and would have reserved judgment until justice played out. An unbiased leader would not have embraced the worst stereotypes about undocumented immigrants. A deliberate leader would have thought twice before appealing to unproven accusations that prosecutors now won’t even place before a jury. Governor Hogan exemplified none of these traits in his handling of the situation and his exploitation of what he claimed to be a brutal act of sexual violence to further his political agenda.
If anything, this turn of events shows the pitfalls of rushing to judgment and allowing one sensational event to shape public opinion and policy. This principle applies equally to public perceptions of rape victims. It would be a serious mistake for us to become more suspicious of rape accusations because of this one incident. One incident is indicative of nothing. Just as one incident of rape or crime by an undocumented immigrant does not prove that undocumented immigrants are more likely to be violent, one unprovable allegation of rape should not cause us to cast more doubt on rape accusers.
Leah Frazier is an attorney and a hockey fan from Anne Arundel County.
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