A Maryland man who recorded and directed the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl will serve a little more than three years in prison, though prosecutors fought for 13 years. On Thursday, Judge Sharon Burrell sentenced 23-year-old Cecil Burrows to 18 months, on top of the 617 days he’s already served since he was arrested, for yelling out instructions as he made an audio recording of three other men committing the 2012 sexual assault.
The attack occurred at Burrows’ home in Olney, Maryland, where a girl the Washington Post describes as “nearly comatose” was raped while Burrows yelled at the men to “hold her down” and asked “who’s next?” In the 35-minute audio recording that law enforcement officials found on Burrows’ computer, one of the rapists notes that Burrows was acting “like a coach” as he egged them on. Authorities suspect that the survivor was either very drunk or drugged; on the recording, she reportedly screams and tells the men to stop. At one point, one of the men notes that she looks like she’s dead, and someone asks her “Are you alive? Hello?”
Burrows was given up by Andres Cortez, a fellow member of the Little R gang and one of the men arrested for the 2012 gang rape. Cortez showed a video of the assault to a coworker, who reported him to a supervisor, who notified the police. At the time, Burrows maintained that he was out of the house buying beer during the rape, and he testified for the prosecution at Cortez’s trial. Perhaps Cortez did not appreciate that, because after he was convicted, he told a detective that Burrows was indeed there and had an audio recording of the assault. Police found the recording on Burrows’ computer.
Burrows, who was already on probation for convictions related to theft and assault, agreed to a plea deal that would cap his sentence for the second-degree sexual assault at 13 years. Prosecutors pushed for the full 13. “Make no mistake about it, it was funny for him. It was fun for him,”Assistant State’s Attorney Patrick Mays said of the recording. A longer sentence would be “about punishment … about incapacitation, taking a dangerous person out of circulation for as much time as possible.”
Judge Burrell had met Burrows in court before. In 2011, she spared him a jail sentence for a theft conviction so he wouldn’t be deported back to his native India. (Burrows, a legal permanent resident, was born in Mumbai and moved to Maryland at age 12, when he joined the gang.) On Thursday, Burrell indicated that she wanted to give Burrows a sentence that was proportional to those of the men who directly raped the girl. NBC reports that their sentences are as long as 15 years. In other words, according to these sentences, “coaching” a gang rape is a less atrocious crime than being a player in one. After Burrows serves another 18 months in prison, he will be sent back to a country where he hasn’t lived for more than a decade. This case is a golden example of our current carceral system’s complete incapacity to deliver true justice—not for the Olney community, not for Burrows, not for wherever in India he winds up, and certainly not for the victim.