A Sanborn teenager was placed on one year of interim probation Wednesday for raping a teenage girl at his Shawnee Road home May 28, 2018.
Because the teenager was 17 when he committed the crime, he could be eligible for youthful offender status. That would mean he would not face prison-time, not have to register as a sex offender and would have his conviction sealed.
The teenager admitted to the rape May 23 and pleaded guilty to a reduced count of third-degree rape. One week after the plea, the student was removed from Niagara Wheatfield Senior High School, which the victim also attended.
The victim's mother urged Niagara County Court Judge Sara Sheldon to sentence the teenager to prison and require him to register as a sex offender, saying he bragged about the assault to his lacrosse teammates and not accepted responsibility for his actions. "This man does not know the difference between rape and sex. Does that sound like a youthful offender to you?" the victim's mother said.
The victim's mother also said her daughter was "tormented" by having to attend school with the teenager for a year after the assault.
"Most rape victims never have to see their rapist again," she said. "She was forced to see him on a daily basis. (The teenager) has raped my daughter, and he tormented her every day since."
Superintendent Daniel Ljiljanich said the district was only made aware of the teenager's guilty plea May 30, and removed him the same day.
The district's response did not assuage students and parents upset that the district allowed an accused rapist to attend the same school as his victim for over a year.
On May 31, dozens of students staged a walk-out over the district's handling of the situation. And at the district Board of Education meeting June 5, several residents demanded school Principal Michael Mann resign in the wake of the incident.
"You had every opportunity to handle the situation in private, which is the way that it should have been," the victim's mother said, addressing the board and Ljiljanich. "You had the ability to contact the Niagara County Court yourself. As a school district, it is 100 percent your responsibility to protect all of your students and to provide them with a safe learning environment."
The victim's mother also said she notified Mann on May 24 that the teenager had pleaded guilty to raping a fellow student.
The day after the meeting, School Board President Steven Sabo said Mann had been placed on administrative leave "pending the findings of an outside, independent investigation."
"It is very important that we allow all of the facts to be collected in this matter," the district wrote in a statement.
The victim's mother also said the teenager's relatives have attacked the victim in online postings. Sheldon read one posting purportedly by the teenager's brother, stating, "It was consensual and they're making him out to be a monster."
Defense attorney David Blackley said he told the teenager not to discuss the case with anyone. "He followed those orders to a T," Blackley said of his client.
Blackley also said the teenager is remorseful. "I am very sorry for what I've done, and I hope you can forgive me," the teenager said.
Sheldon told the teenager to get his friends and family members in line, and admit the truth.
"You need to put a muzzle on your friends and family, and make them stop posting derogatory things about the victim," Sheldon said. "You need to tell them the truth. It was not consensual."
The teenager is scheduled to return before Sheldon for sentencing Aug. 12, 2020. If he cannot follow the terms of his strict sex offender probation, he could face up to four years in prison.