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?
Doe admits she was heavily intoxicated when she slept with Spann (who was then her boyfriend) and Haidl, but says she never had sex with Nachreiner, whom she sees as an obnoxious oaf.
Contradictions in the defense testimony undermine the reliability of Matsumoto and Stroh's other sensational defense claims: that after the alleged rape Doe said the defendants didn't need to drug her because "I would have done it anyway" and "I don't remember what I did, but I know I had sex with all three boys."
Neither Matsumoto nor Stroh remembered these statements when interviewed by Newport Beach Police Detective John Hougan in the months immediately following the alleged crime. The girl's memories were awakened later by John Warren, a former high-ranking FBI agent now retired and on Haidl's private payroll. Asked why they didn't tell Hougan the same story they told Warren, the girls claimed that the police didn't ask the right question.
Stroh was also scheduled as a key defense witness to support their assertion that the rape wasn't a rape but rather a pre-planned necrophilia-themed porno Doe insisted on filming to launch an X-rated career. As evidence, Haidl defense lawyers Scalisi, John Barnett, Peter Morreale, Tom Dunn and Joseph Cavallo have repeatedly claimed that Doe liked to call herself a "porn star." On the stand in the current trial, Stroh was positive about statements Doe made regarding consensual videotaped sex involving herself and Spann, and, separately, Haidl and Davis a week before the alleged rape.
Scalisi: Doe said, "Look at me, I'm a porn star." Do you remember those words?
Stroh: Yes, exactly.
Scalisi: Just the way I have said it?
Scalisi: And that's the way you heard it?
Scalisi: You had no trouble hearing Doe?
Stroh: Not at all.
Scalisi: You understood her words?
But that wasn't Stroh's testimony in the first trial. Scalisi surely wasn't going to point out the inconsistency. But minutes later the DA pounced on Stroh about Doe's sarcastic remark.
Middleton: Do you remember testifying before the last trial that Doe said, "We're porn stars," while talking to Crystal?
Middleton: She said, "Look, we're porn stars"?
Middleton: Not, "Look, I'm a porn star," but "Look, we're porn stars"? Isn't that right?
Stroh: We, I, uh, yeah. Yes.
Middleton: Well, we, I—that can make a difference. Were the words clear to you?
Middleton: What was it: I or we?
Stroh: She was, like, saying it to Crystal. She . . . (pause) . . . She, uh, was specifically watching the tape of herself. So after the thing, after it was said, uh, she said, "Look, we're porn stars."
Curiously missing from the second trial is Vanessa Obmann, an original Mean Girl who had been billed as a key defense witness in the first round. Going into the second trial, Obmann had two liabilities: first, the Weekly revaled that Cavallo had talked to the girl about interning in his office. Second, she admitted that she had altered her written statement to help the defense just four days before the first trial.
But Obmann was easily replaced. Stroh and Matsumoto recently found new witnesses to bad-mouth Doe: Hayley Fiori and Alex Chapman. Stroh, Matsumoto, Obmann, Fiori and Chapman are all longtime friends; Fiori and Chapman say they have followed media coverage of the three-year-old rape saga, but it wasn't until one month ago—just before the retrial—they simultaneously experienced an important flashback. Both remembered a disgusting post-rape story about Doe.
Scalisi: What occurred on July 9, 2002?
Chapman: It [the rape story] came on the news and Jane Doe called me and came over to my house.
Scalisi: While at your house on July 9, 2002, did Jane Doe say anything regarding getting drunk and sexual activity?
Scalisi: What were her words?
Chapman: She said, "They [the three defendants] didn't have to get her drunk; she would have done it anyway."
Scalisi: You clearly understood her?
Chapman: Oh, yes. Uh-huh.
Keith Spann, Kyle Nachreiner and
defense attorney John Barnett.
Fiori was equally unambiguous. She testified that on July 9, 2002, Doe invited her and Chapman to visit. While they allegedly played pool at Doe's house, Fiori says Doe "laughed and giggled and smiled" after picking up a pool stick and saying, "I can't believe this was up me the other day!" Then Fiori testified that Doe said it was "cool to be raped."
Scalisi: Those were her exact words?
Scalisi: What were the words exactly?
Fiori: She said, "I should get raped more often."
Scalisi: Do you know when in July 2002 Jane Doe made that statement?
Fiori: It was July 9.
Scalisi: July 9?
Fiori and Chapman pleased the Haidl defense, but their testimonies are easily discredited. Records reviewed by the Weekly prove that Doe was not at her Rancho Cucamonga residence for almost all of July 9, 2002. On that morning, Doe sat inside the Newport Beach Police Department for lengthy interviews with detectives. Later, she spent hours with sexual-assault specialists at Anaheim Memorial Hospital. She did not return home until after 9 p.m.
Despite inconsistencies in their ever-evolving testimonies, the Mean Girls have proven resilient. (See "Mean Girls," June 4, 2004, in OC Weekly's online article archives.) They don't let facts get in their way.
The jury is set to begin deliberations later this week. Many observers believe the defense has succeeded in smearing Doe and another deadlock is most likely. But if there's a third trial, Fiori and Chapman can huddle again with Matsumoto and Stroh to choose a better date for Doe's dramatic statements. They certainly don't want to see the defendants punished. The Mean Girls want to prove Jane Doe is a liar.