Three months after a judge ruled that a teen-ager accused of raping several former friends and acquaintances should not be tried as an adult, the suspect's lawyer is asking that the case be dismissed altogether, saying prosecutors missed a deadline to file charges in the juvenile system.
Juvenile charges against Nathaniel Jared Yinger, 18, should be thrown out because Maryland rules say prosecutors "shall file" a juvenile petition within 10 days after jurisdiction in a case is transferred to the juvenile courts, his lawyer, Fred S. Hecker, said during a hearing yesterday.
A prosecutor argued that the rule only holds that if the time limit is not met then a suspect should be released from custody, and that since Yinger is not in any detention, there is no penalty to the state. The rule specifically allows the state to later file a juvenile petition, said Assistant State's Attorney Natasha M. Byus.
Carroll County Juvenile Master Peter M. Tabatsko said he would review the rule and court precedents noted by Hecker before issuing a written opinion.
A former county prosecutor, Tabatsko criticized the state's attorney's office, saying that he was "very concerned" and that he couldn't see any reason for the delay because a juvenile petition incorporating the same charges as the case in adult court could have been done in half an hour.
"'Shall' means 'shall,'" Tabatsko said, referring to the wording in the rule. "The question is, What is the sanction?"
Yinger, of the 2800 block of Bashores Mills Road near Taneytown, was charged as an adult in October 2001 with multiple counts of rape, sodomy, sexual assault and assault involving four former friends or acquaintances. A county grand jury later added five counts of second-degree rape or sexual offenses upon incapacitated victims.
Three of the four young women said they were attacked at small, unsupervised teen drinking parties in 2000 and 2001, according to charging documents, while the fourth said Yinger attacked her after she let him inside her home after school, where they played a game of pool. Yinger has denied the charges.
Yesterday, prosecutors agreed that the four cases could be tried separately.
Yinger's trial was delayed in Circuit Court after he was severely injured in an accident March 8, reportedly while returning from a golf game when he was supposed to be on home detention, authorities said.
In motions Oct. 28 to have him tried as a juvenile, Hecker said Yinger had been in a coma for weeks after the accident and suffered lingering physical and mental effects.
That day, Circuit Judge Michael M. Galloway ruled from the bench that Yinger would be tried as a juvenile on the charges.
In granting Hecker's motion, the judge noted that he had seen the former Francis School Key High School student as a high school wrestler, and said that because of the injuries the teen-ager hardly seemed to be the same person.
The judge entered a written order Nov. 15, and the state filed the juvenile petition Dec. 30 -- 45 days later, despite the 10-day limit.
In the hearing yesterday in Juvenile Court, Hecker pointed to the teen's right to a speedy trial and two appeals court decisions in which other types of juvenile petitions were dismissed because prosecutors did not meet filing deadlines.
He rejected the idea "that the state can file a juvenile petition whenever it wants to."
But Byus described as "clear and unambiguous" the language in the rule that says the penalty for failing to file within the time limit is the suspect's release from custody.
The prosecution is not required to give justification for the delay, she told Tabatsko.
State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes said in an interview that the delay occurred because "we were still in the process of evaluating our ultimate position in this case and still in the process of trying to contact the victims."
"We are not prejudiced in moving forward with the case," Barnes said. "It's a very hypertechnical argument, but very interesting."