It sounds like the beginning of a 1970s horror flick based on a Stephen King novel. A 16-year-old girl leaves the safety of the crowd at an innocent Homecoming dance and ends up incoherently drunk and crumpled under a picnic table, dress askew and a trail of grisly pieces of evidence – a high-heeled shoe, a used condom, and a pair of underwear ripped to shreds. What happened to the unnamed victim may never be known. She was approached by a classmate after the dance who asked her if she wanted to “party” with some of his friends. What she didn’t bet on was that over 20 different men would participate in her gang rape – some of them molesting her with foreign objects and sexually assaulting her and others simply standing by for possibly two hours while others attacked her.
There have been at least 7 men charged with the offense (CA Penal Code §261) and at least two of them could end up spending the rest of their lives in jail. Yet, the defense attorneys in the case insist that there is little real evidence to connect the boys to the events of that night. First, the evidence found on the scene is arguably undependable due to its being compromised by the arrival of a police helicopter on the scene during the initial investigation. Couple this with the fact that the DNA taken from the condom is merely ‘trace’ evidence and this case may not be as open and shut as it seems at first glance.
In fact, there are only two truly good reasons for prosecutors in the case to remain confident – Ari Morales and Manuel Ortega, two men who agreed to plea bargains in exchange for 27 years in prison for the former and 32 for the latter. Attorneys for the girl plan to put her on the stand during trial, but she may not be of any use as she was completely drunk on brandy the night of the attack and does not remember anything.