SACRAMENTO (AP) — A California judge on Monday ordered the release of a 17-year-old girl who had been placed in juvenile hall last month because prosecutors feared she would flee rather than testify at the upcoming trial of a suspected rapist.
Superior Court Judge Lawrence Brown previously ordered the girl held because she has a history of running away. On Monday, he said she would be freed with a GPS ankle bracelet after prosecutors and the girl's attorneys agreed to the release.
The judge told the teen her case had charted rare legal territory because her detention was seen as victimizing the girl a second time.
"I am truly sorry for all that you've been through," he told the teenager. "You've demonstrated great courage for a young woman."
The Associated Press is not naming the girl because of her age and because she was the alleged victim of sexual assault.
Prosecutors took the unusual step of detaining the foster child in juvenile hall because they say her testimony is vital evidence against a man they believe is a serial rapist.
The teen previously failed to make two court appearances when the suspect, Frank William Rackley Sr., 37, was previously charged, forcing prosecutors to dismiss charges against him.
They obtained a material witness warrant allowing her to be detained after they refiled the charges.
The teen did not speak during Monday's brief court hearing, but smiled and laughed with one of her attorneys before the hearing began.
"It's a good day for my client," said one her attorneys, Amina Merritt, who represents the girl's interests as a foster child. "Obviously she was suffering in incarceration, and I'm glad that she's been released. She's holding up amazingly well for a young girl of her age."
The judge would not release the terms of the girl's release or say where she would be living.
Victims' rights advocates had said incarcerating the girl could discourage other victims from reporting sexual assaults, but prosecutors said the danger posed by Rackley outweighed the inconvenience to the teen.
Rackley is accused of raping the girl last July, when she was 16. She was abducted July 22 from a north Sacramento light-rail station where she was waiting for a friend to pick her up, according to court documents.
A man approached in a red pickup truck, told her his name was Frank and asked if she needed a ride and if she had a boyfriend. He got angry when she refused his advances, pulled her into the truck, then drove with her to a dark street and raped her, prosecutors say. He pushed her out of the truck and she ran, reporting the attack when she happened upon a sheriff's deputy.
Prosecutors say a rape examination found Rackley's DNA.
He also is charged with raping a 30-year-old suspected prostitute a month earlier, and prosecutors believe he is a serial rapist.
Rackley has pleaded not guilty to all charges. His attorney, Assistant Public Defender Richard Berson, was not available to comment.
Prosecutors attending Monday's hearing would not comment, and Shelly Orio, a spokeswoman for the Sacramento County district attorney, said the office would have no comment.
The girl's other attorney, Lisa Franco, had said her client was treated like a criminal after she was incarcerated with juvenile delinquents on March 23. Other girls wanted to fight her and she was inadvertently hit with pepper-spray used to break up a fight between two other juveniles, Franco said.
She said her client was inadvertently released from juvenile hall earlier this month, but proved she is not a flight risk by going immediately to a Sacramento group home. She was then sent back to custody.
Merritt, the other attorney, said she believed prosecutors could have taken less extreme measures to ensure the girl would show up and testify.
"This may be the first time I've heard of a minor being subjected to that process," she said. "I think it can be characterized ... as bullying."
The criminal case against Rackley is scheduled to go to trial April 23.