Aug 13, 2010

A sexual assault case that rocked the campus of Morgan State University, one of the nation's venerable historically black colleges and universities, took a couple of dramatic twists this week.

A variety of sexual assault charges were dropped Tuesday against four current and former Morgan State students when the woman who accused them of rape changed her story.

The four men - Renard James, 30; Dante Green, 24; Dale Lawton, 21 and Howard Cook Smith, 21 - all former members of Morgan State's band, had been held without bail since their arrest on Monday, July 19 and had been scheduled for a bail review hearing on Tuesday, Aug. 10. Lawton and Smith allegedly told officials they were currently Morgan students.

However, all four were informed Monday that the charges against them were being dropped, and they would be released after processing on Tuesday. But the four men were allegedly beaten by about 30 fellow inmates at the Baltimore City Detention Center before their release.

Green's attorney, Catherine Flynn, told The Baltimore Sun she didn't know why the men were attacked.

"I think one has a broken nose and broken ribs," Flynn said.

Lawton and Smith were taken to a hospital treated and released, according to the state department of corrections, while James and Green were treated at a detention center clinic.

The decision to drop the case was made this week by the Baltimore State's Attorney's office because of "insufficient evidence," according to spokesperson Margaret Burns.

According to reports, Lawton's family is exploring legal action against the female accuser, who was also connected to Morgan State's band.

She initially told police she was held down, her pants forced off, and various sexual acts were performed on her against her will. The alleged attack occurred at Smith's apartment in Northeast Baltimore, not far from Morgan's campus, on June 30.

The four men were charged with eight counts, including sex offense, assault, perverted practice and conspiracy connected to the encounter, which police say may have involved alcohol. Police reports say the accuser knew at least one of the men.

Lawton's Facebook page is filled with the sentiments of dozens of well-wishers who are relieved he has been released from jail after nearly 30 days. And the page includes a quote presumably from Lawton.

"Life is full of roadblocks," it says. "Learn how to plow through as many as you can."


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