After White House contributed to rape case firestorm, charges dropped

Maryland rape case

Prosecutors in Maryland said Friday they are dropping rape charges against two teenagers -- undocumented immigrants -- in a case that the White House used to promote President Trump's deportation policy.

"It's horrendous and horrible and disgusting what this young woman in Rockville went through," White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in March. 

Spicer was commenting on a case at Rockville High School in Maryland, just outside of Washington, in which two recent immigrants from Central America, ages 17 and 18, were charged with raping a 14-year-old girl in a school bathroom. 

High school rape case becomes part of immigration debate

"Part of the reason that the president has made illegal immigration and crackdown such a big deal is because of tragedies like this," Spicer said. "Immigration plays its toll on our people if it's not done legally."

His remarks drew national attention to the case and contributed to a firestorm of anti-immigrant criticism.

But the teenagers' lawyers said the sex was consensual and was even planned in advance with the young girl. On Friday, State's Attorney John McCarthy announced the charges were being dropped.

"We have concluded that the facts in this case do not support the original charges filed in this matter," McCarthy said. 

"This case blew up because they immediately assumed there were immigrants and, as a result, they immediately assumed they were rapists," says Maria Mena, the lawyer for the 17-year-old.

Rape charges have been dropped against two undocumented teenagers in Maryland, weeks after the White House used the case as an example for the immigration crackdown. CBS News

Deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders, filling in Friday for Spicer, was asked if White House rhetoric about immigration is encouraging people to jump to conclusions against immigrants.

"Not at all. The president has been incredibly outspoken against crime in any form, fashion," Sanders said. 

Both teens are still in custody and they could be facing lengthy deportation proceedings.

  • Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.