Justice Takes a Pool Cue

Assistant sheriff, OC dailies miss the irony as Haidl 3 elude conviction

Moments after Judge Francisco Briseno declared a June 28 mistrial in Orange County's infamous gang-rape case, millionaire Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl wrapped his arms around his son, defendant Gregory Scott Haidl, and squeezed. During the embrace, the 19-year-old whispered in his father's ear. The elder Haidl spun around, fixed an angry stare and jabbed his finger at an Orange County Registerphotographer. Silencing the packed courtroom, he yelled, "Don't ever point that thing at me!"

It was impossible to miss the irony unless you were Los Angeles Timesreporters Claire Luna and Stuart Pfeifer, who were busy trading smiles and congratulatory handshakes with defense lawyers. On July 6, 2002, Greg Haidl and two buddies supplied alcohol and drugs to a 16-year-old and, after she likely fell into a stupor, videotaped her as the object of their deviant sexual fantasies. By the time it was over the drunken, laughing defendants had filmed themselves shoving a Snapple bottle, lit cigarette, Tree Top Apple juice can and pool cue into the near motionless girl's vagina and anus. Later, a proud Haidl showed his 21-minute video to acquaintances, some of whom thought the girl was a corpse and alerted police.

Fast forward to June 28 inside Briseno's courtroom after the jury deadlocked on all 24 felony counts. Although neither was lying naked on a pool table with foreign objects protruding from his ass, Haidl and his son were incensed that someone tried to take theirpicture. Still seething at the Registerphotographer who'd aimed his camera at the 19-year-old defendants, a red-faced Haidl shouted, "Don't do it! Do you understand me?"

A more appropriate emotion for the chain-smoking, assistant sheriff might have been joyous relief. After all, it was his million-dollar-plus campaign that convinced some members of the jury that the villain was Jane Doe, the alleged victim. Defense lawyers--who secretly hired a focus group to test trial strategies--called Doe a "slut" and a "whore" who loved giving "blow jobs" and enjoyed "doggy-style" sex. On flimsy or non-existent evidence, they even insinuated that Doe pressured her partners for anal intercourse, dreamed of becoming a porn star, craved four-way encounters and liked to swallow. Lead defense lawyer Joe Cavallo told the jury Doe should have been charged with raping Haidl, Keith Spann and Kyle Nachreiner, a laughable claim given how the defendants manhandled the girl throughout the gangbang.

In California it's illegal to have sex with someone so intoxicated or drugged she cannot resist. Setting aside the DA's contention that the defendants laced Doe's drink with GHB or some other fast-acting narcotic, there was no dispute that the high school sophomore drank beer, smoked marijuana and gulped an eight-ounce glass of Bombay Gin. Haidl captured her fall on video. Within minutes, Doe's speech was slurred and her body displayed the rigidity of a rag doll. She said, "Greg, I feel ill" and 30 seconds later, "I'm so fucked up." Those were her last words. Eight minutes and 15 seconds later, the defendants had Doe stripped and, as the normally reserved Superior Court Judge Everett Dickey observed during preliminary hearings, "used her like a piece of meat" on a wicker sofa and pool table in Haidl's garage. As Spann began fucking the incoherent girl for a second time, it was Haidl--described as a kind, shy "little boy" by his father--who shouted, "Put it down for the militia bitch!"

The defense and their well-paid medical experts offered several theories: the defendants had no "reasonable" way of knowing Doe was incapacitated, and that her ingestion of stimulants was meaningless because Doe faked unconsciousness for a pre-arranged, necrophilia-themed porno directed by the assistant sheriff's son. According to Cavallo, the mastermind behind the video was Doe not Haidl--the film student who owned a top-of-the-line Sony Hand Held camera and recorded everything from sex with his girlfriends to skateboarding practices.

As a sign of the defense team's contempt for this jury's intellectual abilities, they even offered a third, contradictory version of events. After Dr. Peter Fotinakes, the prosecution's neurologist, told jurors to use their "common sense" about Doe's "obviously" diminished consciousness, defense lawyer John Barnett argued Doe's coma might have been "self induced" because of teenage "post traumatic stress disorder." Said Barnett, "[Doe] has low esteem. She's morally conflicted. It's gonna cause acute situational stress." With all the sincerity he could he muster, Barnett then explained to jurors that the defendants couldn't be guilty of rape by intoxication if Doe had voluntarily willed herself into a coma.

Never mind that a self-induced comatose person can't give consent either. Never mind that Nachreiner disappeared for at least 15 minutes when he was making Doe's iceless gin drink even though the gin bottle and cup were in the garage with them; or that police later found a powerful prescription sedative on a bathroom countertop in the Haidl house. Never mind that the defendants repeatedly signaled to each other on the video that Doe was knocked out. Never mind that Doe, face down on the pool table, didn't flinch when she urinated on herself as Haidl slapped her genitals and Nachreiner vigorously plunged a pool cue into her vagina. Never mind that Doe vomited that night. Never mind that she reeked of alcohol and looked like hell the next morning. Never mind that those who saw Doe in the aftermath testified that her last memory was drinking Nachreiner's foul-tasting concoction.

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