Bad Dads

The Haidl Gang-Rape case couldve ended years ago with better parenting

Then Haidl made a startling revelation. He said he told his son that admitting guilt is nonsensical. He said he told Greg, "It doesn't work that way."

And so the community watched the most vicious defense campaign in modern Orange County history. The rape victim and her family were tailed, harassed and smeared with a callousness you'd expect in military combat. Haidl spent untold dollars collecting dirt on the girl. The lawyers he hired called the victim "a slut" and "a trashy whore." His gofers managed to get Los Angeles Times columnist Dana Parsons to downplay the foreign objects repeatedly shoved into the victim's vagina and anus as little more than "kinky dildos." Haidl paid jurors from the deadlocked first trial to consult on the second trial.

(In a September 2005 letter to the county Probation Department, the elder Haidl wrote, "If I'm guilty of hiring a law firm to defend [Greg], then so be it. What parent wouldn't?")

Prison bound/ Courtesy Pool Photographer Michael Goulding/ The Orange County
Prison bound/ Courtesy Pool Photographer Michael Goulding/ The Orange County

Yet, when he hoped to influence his son's punishment, Mr. Haidl told the court, "The girl and her family are not my enemies and never were." He said Greg has shown remorse for four years. He turned to Jane Doe, coughed and said with a voice like gravel, "I apologize to you."

According to Haidl, the real villains in the case use pens and notepads, not Snapple bottles and pool sticks: they're the media. Reporters, he said, are the reason "everyone has been living inside a nightmare for four years . . . the damage that has been done to our family and friends is unending." Greg has been forced to endure watching the media "harass and torment his own family," he said. "But we don't need or want sympathy." He said those people who have criticized Greg are "nut cases."

"He's felt the pain for all four families," Mr. Haidl said, including the victim's family in his calculations. "He's been punished more than anyone can imagine."

The show for Briseño wasn't over. Greg's mother, Gail, also asked the court for leniency. She is the woman who hired a PI to post community fliers shamelessly identifying Doe in the weeks after the rape. (The fliers claimed to be posted by the victim's family but listed Mrs. Haidl's telephone number as the contact.) She filed a lawsuit against police officers who investigated the fliers and tore them down. But before the final sentencing, Mrs. Haidl was suddenly gracious. "[Greg] and I and the family are looking for a better society," she said. "A better community, that's what we all want."

Sitting with her family in the front row of the courtroom, Jane Doe, now 20 years old and wiser, looked away, shaking her head in disgust.

After the defendants wept and asked for probation, Briseño fired back. He shotgunned the main thesis of the defense: that Jane Doe had faked unconsciousness. She was "clearly completely out of it," he said before floating the idea of prison as punishment.

The defense niceties vanished immediately. Defense lawyer Al Stokke, who replaced lead trial attorney Joseph G. Cavallo, questioned any link between the rape and the victim's claim of mental anguish. Stokke also mocked the girl's physical injuries, finally conceding she was unconscious but then trying to use that against her. "There's [no pain] that is felt," he said, "because she was unconscious."

At a post-sentencing press conference, defense lawyer Peter Morreale called the judge's sentences "a bit excessive" and then took aim at District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. It wasn't the defendants, their families or the defense lawyers who should be ashamed of their tactics, he said, but Rackauckas.

"The way the prosecutor's office pursued this matter was unconscionable," Morreale said. "There was a political agenda that drove this case."

In answer to a reporter's question, he called the case "a witch hunt."

No, the outcome of the case was an appropriate rebuke to the Haidl defense team's preposterous attempt to rewrite California's rape laws. If their arguments had prevailed, it would no longer be necessary for a woman to give, say, oral consent before sex. Defense lawyer John Barnett, legendary in Southern California for representing cops accused of excessive force, argued that consent is implied if a man who penetrates a woman's rectum with a foreign object can do so without causing massive injuries. Only a willing sex partner could relax her sphincter muscle, claimed Barnett.

"Everybody lost today," he said after the sentencing. "There were no victors."

Since the guilty verdicts in March 2005, the defense team—downright joyous after the first trial's deadlock—has repeated Barnett's chorus. And while it's true that the three defendants, the victim and their families have endured excruciating pain since the crime, Barnett is wrong. There was finally a victor on the day of sentencing: truth.

For the first time, both Nachreiner and Haidl publicly abandoned their ludicrous claim that Jane Doe had faked unconsciousness after convincing them to film a necrophilia-themed sex video.

Greg went first. He's gained at least 80 pounds in the last four years and now wears glasses. His baby face and cocky smile were long ago replaced by a look of constant wariness. Reading from notes, he apologized to Doe and, apparently unable to see the craziness of his suggestion, offered to assist her in recovery.

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