By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Photo by James BunoanIn Orange County's sensational teenage gang rape case, defense lawyers for Gregory Scott Haidl have said they know the real villain: the alleged victim.
Gearing up for next month's trial, Haidl lawyer Joseph G. Cavallo claimed in a bombshell March 15 motion that the girl, then 16, was entirely responsible for the infamous July 2002 incident.
Because she was a minor, the Rancho Cucamonga girl is known in court only as "Jane Doe." Prosecutors allege Haidl, 18, Kyle Nachreiner and Keith Spann, both 19, drugged her unconscious and then videotaped themselves having sex with her on a pool table in a Newport Beach home owned by Haidl's father—Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl.
In his motion, Cavallo called the alleged victim a "slut" who "craved" gang-bang sex, was "proud" of her promiscuity, dreamed of becoming a porn star and actually directed the sexual encounter with the defendants while she "feigned" unconsciousness.
"The complaining witness was undiscriminating in her sexual encounters and was willing to do anything with anybody if it met her needs and desires," wrote Cavallo.
Instead, in a statement almost sure to outrage, Cavallo argued the girl had a well-deserved reputation as a "slut" and so the defendants "conducted themselves accordingly."
The defendants captured the July 6, 2002, event in a grainy but graphic 21-minute homemade DVD. After seeing the DVD during a preliminary hearing last year, Superior Court Judge Everett Dickey said the defendants treated the "completely unconscious" girl's body "like a piece of meat." Trial Judge Francisco Briseno and state Attorney General Bill Lockyer have described the DVD images as brutal and obscene.
After Haidl invited the girl to his late-night party, the defendants supplied her with alcohol and drugs. She eventually vomited and passed out on a sofa. After she was carried to a garage pool table, the boys had intercourse with her and forced oral copulation before penetrating the girl's vagina and anus with a Snapple bottle, lit cigarette, juice can and pool stick, prosecutors say. When the girl awoke the next morning, she was sore, bruised, soiled, disheveled and alone in a car parked on a San Bernardino County street. Although doctors would later find numerous internal tears, the girl says she didn't know what happened until notified by Newport Beach police, who had obtained a copy of Haidl's DVD. Police originally worried the female in the film was dead.
Defense lawyers describe the incident as a harmless "teenage sexcapade." They have urged judicial officials to move the case to a more lenient juvenile court setting, where the defendants could receive probation. In Briseno's court, Haidl, Nachreiner and Spann face up to 55 years in prison if convicted of more than 20 rape-related felony counts.
That scenario prompted Cavallo to ask Briseno to exempt his clients from state rape laws designed to shield alleged victims from invasive criticism.
"If the jury is to develop a clear and accurate understanding of the mental state of the defendants and the complaining witness at the time of the events at issue," Cavallo wrote, they need to learn about the following 10 "relevant items of evidence":
•In May 2002, the girl's mother sought "medical and psychological help for her daughter . . . [who] was rebellious and would leave the house without telling her parents where she was going."
•The girl's "relationship with her father was strained, and the two did not get along."
•Crystal Davis and Jenna Stroh—two acquaintances of the defendants—told the defense team the girl claimed she illegally obtained a six-pack of beer by allowing a store clerk to "feel her up."
•Defendants "were aware" the girl "had sex with one Joey Cervantes in the back seat of a car after knowing him for 10 minutes." After the sex, the girl allegedly told Cervantes she wanted him as a boyfriend. Cavallo reports that the boy replied, "What, are you kidding? You're a slut!"
•The girl allegedly masturbated with a pool cue and a lit cigarette during an earlier consensual encounter involving at least one of the defendants.
•Lonnie Dickens "will testify that the complaining witness had orally copulated Lonnie and had sex with him" at some unspecified date and location.
•In a previous encounter with Spann, the girl agreed to have sex recorded on videotape and afterward allegedly told "her friends she was proud of her performance and wanted to be a porn star."
•The girl allegedly told friends she "wanted to have multiple sex partners and tried to recruit her friend Crystal to engage in a 'four-way' sexual encounter with the defendants."
•The girl "first denied recalling the events in question when confronted by her indignant parents, who had just received a telephone call from the Newport Beach police informing them, 'Your daughter has been gang raped.'"
•The girl claims no memory of the gang bang but had "Spann pull his car over" later that morning "so she could get out and urinate by the side of the road."
Cavallo concludes that these charges prove the rape allegation is false, the girl lied about being incapacitated, and the defendants had no criminal intent. In a recent interview with Claire Luna of the Los Angeles Times, he compared the Haidl charges to the Kobe Bryant rape prosecution. "Besides the high-profile nature of both cases," Cavallo told Luna, "the similarity between them is that the girl consented."
It's important to note that the Bryant case revolves precisely around the still-disputed fact of consent: unlike Cavallo and certain Orange County T-shirt makers, the judge and jury in the Bryant case have yet to decide whether the alleged victim agreed to have sex with Bryant. That's what the case is about. But in Cavallo's world, it seems, there's no question: women who claim they've been raped—by Haidl or Bryant—are liars.
Nevertheless, it's tempting to compare the Haidl and Bryant trials; both involve wealthy defendants, sex and the question of consent. But there are four key distinctions. First, in Bryant's situation, the girl was an adult—not, as in the Haidl case, a minor, who can never give legal consent. Second, there's no videotape of what happened in Bryant's Colorado hotel room. Third, no one has accused Bryant of drugging the alleged victim. Finally, and perhaps most critically, Bryant's alleged victim remained conscious throughout the incident.
No, the better comparison for Cavallo involves the landmark 2002 decision in People v. William Raymond Dancy. In that Santa Clara County case, Dancy gave alcohol and drugs to a woman he'd had sex with on previous occasions. On this occasion, the victim blacked out, and Dancy began intercourse.
Dancy's lawyers argued there could be no rape if the defendant believed the victim would have consented if conscious. Cavallo should note that the court was unambiguous in its rejection of Dancy's assertion.
"A man who intentionally engages in sexual intercourse with a woman he knows to be unconscious harbors a wrongful intent regardless of whether he believes that she has or she actually has consented in advance to the act," state appeals court justices ruled. The California Supreme Court concurred.
In short: a woman has to have the ability to say "no" throughout the sexual encounter.
Faced with such a solid legal obstacle, Cavallo and the other seven defense lawyers have adopted a two-pronged strategy: block admissibility of the DVD by claiming that law enforcement doctored the images and, absent that long shot, convince at least one of 12 Orange County jurors that men aren't responsible for sex when they think an unconscious, underage girl really, really wants it.
Additional links to related stories:"Mr. Big Mouth: In the Haidl gang-rape case, the Sheriff's No. 2 digs himself deeper," March 19, 2004