Haidl Wept

Judge concedes the gang-rape suspect is in great need, but says no to Get Out of Jail card

Courtesy pool photographer
Michael Goulding/The
Orange County RegisterIt appears Greg Haidl now knows his actions carry consequences. Locked up since Nov. 16 for repeatedly violating the conditions of his $100,000 bail, the 19-year-old son of a wealthy, ex-assistant sheriff doesn't want to spend another minute incarcerated. Jail is apparently uncomfortable.

And on Jan. 10, after a judge refused to move him from the Orange County Jail to a private mental-health facility in Costa Mesa, Haidl wept.

The gang-rape suspect's tears and sniffling seemed genuine. Twice, he buried his face in a white handkerchief and noisily sobbed while his usually hard-nosed lawyers patted his back and offered soothing words.

In making his decision, the judge considered a complaint list compiled by Haidl's team of nine attorneys and four doctors: the jail atmosphere is stressful. He can't sleep comfortably. His back hurts. He isn't satisfied with visitation procedures. He wants more privacy. He'd like a new cell and more time on the phone. He thinks scary inmates shouldn't be housed nearby. He's tired of deputies listening to his conversations with other inmates. He's pissed jail officials won't give him better anti-anxiety drugs.

Oh, and he wants something else: affection.

"The kid needs love," testified Dr. Jeffrey I. Barke, co-owner of Newport Medical Consultants and Haidl's latest physician. "He needs TLC . . . and they're not giving him that in jail."

Haidl had already been given one break. Back in November, Superior Court Judge Francisco Briseño made sheriff's department supervisors guarantee this rape defendant won't be sodomized in jail. And though the judge blocked efforts to release Haidl to a private mental hospital at this latest hearing, he says he wants to be sensitive to the defendant's feelings.

"I'm reluctant to take him off 24-hour surveillance," said Briseño, who then noted he'd "try to get a greater degree" of concessions for Haidl from the sheriff's department. "I accept the doctor's [Barke] estimate that he's in great need."

While officials study how to make Haidl more comfortable, jury selection began Jan. 11 for the upcoming retrial on gang-rape charges. Opening statements are likely to begin the first week of February. Prosecutor Chuck Middleton says Haidl and two buddies (Kyle Nachreiner and Keith Spann) videotaped themselves raping and molesting an unconscious underaged girl on a pool table during a 2002 Newport Beach party.

The alleged crime began after the defendants, who were drunk, gave a 16-year-old girl beer, marijuana and a glass of Bombay Gin. When the girl became incoherent, they used her for sex and ended the night by shoving a pool stick, Snapple bottle, lit cigarette and juice can into her vagina and anus as they laughed and danced to sexually suggestive rap music. Haidl lost the tape after showing it to friends. Police who recovered the video initially thought the female body in the film was a corpse.

Defense lawyers have offered varying claims, some of them contradictory. In one instance, they claimed the girl had given permission for sex before passing out (which isn't supposed to be a legal defense in California), and then that she'd faked unconsciousness for a necrophilia-themed porno. Elsewhere, they maintained law enforcement doctored the tape to remove exonerating scenes in an effort to ruin Haidl's father, then a multimillionaire assistant sheriff who was close friends with the county's top cop, Sheriff Mike Carona.

If convicted, Haidl, Nachreiner and Spann face sentences ranging from probation to 23 years in prison. In plea negotiations last year, a defense lawyer insisted Haidl receive nothing worse than probation or a short sentence in a privately owned prison. A jury deadlocked last June. Less than a month later, Haidl was arrested and charged with statutory rape of a second underaged girl he'd met while celebrating the jury deadlock. That case also involved alcohol abuse.

The next jury should prepare for mind twisters. Tracking defense-team assertions often requires a flow chart. For example, in October, Haidl violated bail by drinking alcohol, getting high on painkillers and then crashing his 2005 car into oncoming traffic. At the scene, he said he was sober and blamed his appearance on "spicy Indian food." Later, we learned Haidl was extremely intoxicated and had been searching for his Santa Ana drug dealer before the crash. In November, a Haidl psychiatrist—hoping to keep Haidl out of jail and in a mental hospital for alleged suicidal tendencies—testified that his patient had been trying to commit suicide the night of the crash.

That having failed, the defense team offered a new spin on the October crash. On Jan. 10, Dr. Barke said, "The car accident was the result of medication he took and was his way to ease the pain of his depression. I don't think the purpose was to kill himself."

Deputy District Attorney Brian Gurwitz asked Barke if he'd be surprised to hear Dr. Irwin Rosenfeld, Haidl's psychiatrist, had given the court conflicting information about the night of the crash. "No," said Barke, who described himself as a "doctor, counselor and friend" to Haidl. "How we interpret that night is variable."

What's not variable, at least to Barke, is Haidl's condition.

"He's suffering from severe clinical depression, severe anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, and he desperately needs counseling," said the doctor, who called the rape suspect's experiences "horrendous."

Barke didn't offer any sympathy for the alleged rape victim and her family.

"Greg's a very conflicted young man," said Barke. "Greg's suffering from medical and mental illness. Greg needs help. . . . In a perfect world [in jail], we could go to Greg every day and say, 'How's your anxiety?'"

The doctor says the rape cases have put an unfair burden on Haidl. "Greg is understandably very, very angry, depressed and frustrated that he has no way to vent," he said.

A worried-looking, soft-spoken Briseño asked the doctor what would make Haidl feel better under the circumstances. Sitting on the witness stand, Barke looked at the defendant and said, "Greg desperately needs a caring environment." The doctor wants him housed at College Hospital because Haidl "isn't being treated fairly" in jail. "It's pretty far from a therapeutic environment."

After the judge left the bench and most reporters filed out of the courtroom, a deputy did what deputies never do for rape suspects: he, too, patted Haidl on the back, whispered something in his ear, smiled warmly, winked at Haidl's nearby father—the former assistant sheriff—and then gently placed the defendant in handcuffs for his trip back to cell 13. Before leaving, Haidl turned, lifted his bound wrists and gave his parents the "hang loose" sign.

rscottmoxley@ocweekly.com

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