HARRISONBURG, Va. - A Rockingham County judge has barred the media from being present during a hearing for two Harrisonburg teens accused of violently raping a woman at knifepoint.
The Daily News-Record reports ( http://www.dnronline.com) that Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge David O'Donnell ruled Monday that media could not attend Tuesday's preliminary hearing because the newspaper had reported the juvenile suspects' names in a previous story. O'Donnell said he feared the victim's name would be published.
Daily News-Record City Editor Rob Longley said the paper's policy is not to publish the names of victims in sexual assault cases.
Several media outlets, including some who had not published the suspects' identities, argued Monday that the hearing should be public due to the seriousness of the allegations. The AP generally does not name juvenile defendants.
The two 16-year-old defendants are charged with breaking into a 22-year-old woman's apartment in October and robbing and repeatedly raping her.
The teens were arrested shortly after the incident, and prosecutors said they confessed during interviews with investigators. Investigators said the two teens were left together in an interview room alone as a video camera recorded them laughing and joking about the rape. They are being held at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Detention Center in Verona.
Rockingham County Commonwealth's Attorney Marsha Garst said she plans to charge the teens as adults. If O'Donnell finds probable cause at Tuesday's hearing, the case will be sent to the grand jury. If convicted, they could face up to life in prison.
In Virginia, hearings for juveniles who are 14 or older and charged with what would be a felony if committed by an adult are open to the public, but may be closed by the court for good cause. If closed, the judge must state its reasons in writing.
Information from: Daily News-Record, http://www.dnronline.com
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