A Montgomery County man was sentenced Thursday to 10 years of probation for the rape and sexual assault of four teenage girls, avoiding prison time despite strong denunciations of the defendant from victim advocates.
Brendan Mercandali, now 27, was arrested in 2015 in connection with the attacks on 13 teenagers in Maryland and Virginia. Police discovered that the attacks were linked to a string of assaults in Georgia that police were investigating at the time. In October 2015, a jury convicted Mercandali on seven counts of rape, seven counts of abduction, seven counts of sexual battery and seven counts of object rape. However, in February of this year, the Montgomery County State’s Attorney dropped four of the charges and now the charge against Mercandali involving a victim under the age of 12.
“When Brendan Mercandali was first charged with dozens of violent crimes, his victims in the case were too young to go to prison,” Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said in a statement. “Thanks to efforts by this Office and through bipartisan legislation, it is now possible to hold violent predators such as Brendan Mercandali accountable.”
Thursday’s sentencing followed Mercandali’s guilty plea to a plea deal and sentenucing all charges against him. A joint recommendation from the state’s attorney’s office and Mercandali’s attorney was delivered to the court.
His sentence will not include any incarceration because he has no prior criminal record. Mercandali must also register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
Two victims, who were 13 and 15 years old at the time of the attacks, also read statements to the court. They spoke of the harm caused by the assaults and expressed their continuing support for law enforcement in their counties.
“I am a survivor, and I am a victim, and I will always be a victim,” the younger victim, who was 13 at the time of the assault, said.
When one of the girls spoke in court, a man in the audience yelled at her for being too emotional. After he was escorted out of the courtroom, he told the victim, “Sorry that I had to bring myself to say those words.”
“You’re a real nice girl,” he added.
Mercandali did not address the court or speak to the victim from the gallery. He stayed silent when Judge Kenneth Heller asked him if he would object to the deal or comments from the victim’s mother.
“Your actions, Mr. Mercandali, are more egregious than what you’re accused of,” Heller said. “This was not a misunderstanding. You targeted vulnerable children for long periods of time … Overwhelmingly, you’re just as guilty as everyone else.”
A few other victims spoke in support of the sentence.
“I think the sentence is far, far more fitting than the sentence he receives,” said Kathryn Scahill, who has written a book about the Mercandali cases.
The victim advocates, as well as Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy, were more reserved.
“The sentence should have been carried out 100 percent,” McCarthy said. “I applaud the victim advocate and thank him for his comments.”
Asked if the state’s attorney’s office would have sought a maximum sentence, McCarthy added, “We did not have that option, obviously.”