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
Courtesy pool photographer
Ygnacio Nanetti/The Orange
County RegisterOn March 8, the Mean Girls—Jenna Stroh, Melissa Matsumoto, Hayley Fiori and Alex Chapman—dressed up in the latest hip teen fashions, left their parents' homes in the 909 and drove to Orange County's central courthouse in Santa Ana. The mission? Rescue three accused felons. The strategy? Belittle ex-friend Jane Doe, who prosecutors say was raped and molested at a Newport Beach party three years ago.
You might expect the Mean Girls to feel outrage that the accused put a 16-year-old girl into a drunken, drug-induced stupor, tossed her naked body on a garage pool table and then repeatedly shoved a pool cue, Snapple bottle, apple juice can and a lit cigarette into her vagina and rectum. But it's Doe the girls don't like. They say she was an outcast who tried too hard to be in their close-knit social group.
These girls smile at the defendants, especially Greg Haidl. Forget that during the alleged rape Haidl said, "Put it down for the militia, bitch," and felt the unconscious girl's stomach to gauge how far they'd plunged a pool cue into her vagina. He's the 19-year-old bad boy, the heir to a multi-million-dollar fortune thanks to his daddy's savvy in the used car business.
With ex-Assistant Sheriff Tom Davis—a soldier in Haidl's private-eye army and a chewing-gum enthusiast—watching protectively, the Mean Girls huddled in the hallway outside Judge Francisco BriseŮo's 11th floor courtroom. They'd met with Haidl emissaries on several occasions but were still nervous. They played with their hair. They checked their nails and adjusted their tight-fitting outfits. They rehearsed testimony.
Don't laugh: It's a chore keeping stories consistent. There are laws against perjury.
And by the time each Mean Girl reached the witness stand and swore an oath to truthfulness, their pro-defense memories were remarkably identical. They had only sugary things to say about defendants Haidl, Keith Spann and Kyle Nachreiner. Time and again, they recounted the same unflattering observations about Doe or recalled word for word the same alarming three-year-old sentences she allegedly uttered. Incredibly, some of their identical stories from the first trial evolved into new identical stories in this retrial. And imagine the breathtaking coincidence that these new identical stories dovetail precisely with a shift in the Haidl defense strategy.
The first case ended in deadlock last June. Back then, the defense wanted jurors to believe Matsumoto and Stroh observed Doe heavily intoxicated and promiscuous at a party on the night before the alleged July 5/6, 2002, gang rape. "She was drunk," Matsumoto said without hesitation in response to a question by Haidl lawyer Peter Scalisi. She was even more descriptive during cross examination by then-Haidl prosecutor Dan Hess.
Hess: You said [Doe] was drunk?
Hess: Jane Doe got drunk?
Matsumoto: Yes. She was drunk. She was being loud and careless. She couldn't even really walk straight. She could barely stand up.
In this second trial, the defense strategy changed because new prosecutor Chuck Middleton is no longer charging that the defendants used GHB, the date-rape drug. (Doe—who says she has no memory of the gang bang captured on Haidl's video camera—wasn't tested for narcotics until July 9, 2002; GHB leaves the bloodstream within roughly 24 hours.) The defense wants to convince the current jury that Doe had equal amounts of alcohol at the July 4/5 party and the July 5/6 party. With GHB out of the equation by stipulation, the defense spin is easier: How could Doe be merely tipsy one night and unconscious the next?
Matsumoto figured prominently in the defense maneuver. Recall that in last year's trial she described Doe as sloppy drunk—could barely walk or stand up—on July 4/5. Without explanation, her story changed.
Scalisi: How was Jane Doe acting? Was she acting intoxicated?
Matsumoto: A little. Not too much.
Scalisi: When she walked, did she appear to be able to walk without falling down?
Stroh's memory about Doe is different now, too. In the first trial, she supplied Scalisi with the same answer Matsumoto gave on the witness stand: "[Doe] was drunk." When the prosecution asked Stroh why she and Matsumoto pulled Doe's jeans off at the July 4/5 pool party, Stroh reiterated that Doe was too drunk to take off her own clothes.
But in the current trial, Stroh flip-flopped. Her new version mirrors Matsumoto's latest, defense-friendly version.
Scalisi: Was [Doe] behaving okay?
Scalisi: Not like she was drunk?
Stroh: Not at all.
Stroh has struggled to keep her stories straight. After the July 4/5 party, Doe rode back to Rancho Cucamonga with Stroh, Matsumoto and Crystal Davis, Haidl's then-girlfriend. It was during this trip, the defense desperately wants jurors to believe, that Doe bragged about sleeping separately with all three defendants before the July 5/6 rape. Stroh provided the testimony in the first trial.
Scalisi: Now that Crystal is out of the car [dropped off at her house], and you and Melissa and Jane Doe are in the car, is there any discussion about what had occurred [at the party]?
Scalisi: What was that?
Stroh: She told us that she had had sex with Greg.
Scalisi: Did she tell you she had sex with Keith as well?
Scalisi: Did she also tell you at any point that she had had sex with all three?
Scalisi: What did she say?
Stroh: After we had dropped Melissa [and Crystal] at home, she [told me] she had had sex with all three of the boys.
DA Chuck Middleton
But at that same trial, Matsumoto testified that she was still in the car when Doe said she'd screwed all three defendants. The defense has fixed that inconsistency in the current trial. Stroh's memory is now in sync with Matsumoto's.
Scalisi: Did Jane Doe say anything with regard to sex [after the July 4 party]?
Stroh: Yes. As soon as Crystal had got out of the car, she toldus [my emphasis] that she had had sex with all three boys. . . As soon as Crystal got out, that was when she was like dying to tell us all that she had done there.
Scalisi: As soon as Crystal gets out of the car, when is it that Jane begins to talk about what happened?