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
Jane Doe was sitting in a Southern California community-college classroom when her criminal-justice professor ignited a debate about the infamous 2002 Haidl gang rape that won international attention. Three young men (then ages 17 and 18) got a then-16-year-old girl intoxicated on booze and marijuana to the point of unconsciousness, stripped her, and then videotaped their sexual assault at a Pacific Ocean-view, Corona del Mar home. With misogynistic rap as a soundtrack, they threw her limp body on a pool table and, in a despicable coup de grâce, repeatedly shoved a Snapple bottle, apple-juice can, lit cigarette and a pool stick into her vagina and anus.
We'd never know about the sensational crime except that Greg Haidl, the filmmaker/participant and the son of an ultra-wealthy assistant sheriff, clumsily lost his homemade porno after proudly showing it to friends. Eventually, the 21-minute film made its way to police, who initially believed they'd discovered a bizarre case of necrophilia. The arrests of Haidl, Kyle Nachreiner and Keith Spann began an intense, eight-year court battle that ended with convictions and six-year prison sentences—and created a political earthquake from which Orange County is still recovering.
Though long over, the case remains polarizing, especially in classrooms such as the one with Doe in attendance. Those who side with the defendants are often the angriest. They opine that the victim enticed the men by wearing provocative clothes and flirting. Some people go so far as to claim the girl's mere presence with partying men was a "green light" for a gangbang. Those are infuriating stances to Doe, who kept her mouth shut during the debate. Neither the professor nor the other students knew that if she spoke, she would do so with compelling authority.
"I was unconscious, and there's a video to prove it," she tells me, unable to mask her incredulity.
She is the Jane Doe in the Haidl case. The horrific crime plus the savage, multimillion-dollar defense smear and intimidation campaign coupled with public scorn and her own missteps came close to ruining her permanently. It has taken a while to recover from all the abuse, but there's good news.
Two months shy of the 10th anniversary of the crime, Doe is ready to break her silence in a public forum. On April 27, she will give a seven-minute speech at Orange County's annual Victims' Rights March and Rally in Santa Ana. She has decided to reveal her first name at the event.
"In 2002, my world collapsed, and I lost everything I knew," she says. "But now I've turned a horrible situation into a positive. I've taken my life back."
* * *
Everybody expected that Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl—a chain smoker with a cocktail near-permanently attached to his hand and a scowl on his emaciated face—would do everything he could to keep his son out of prison following the arrests. But few people could've anticipated the extent to which Haidl's legal defense team—totaling more than a dozen defense lawyers, including a former state Supreme Court justice, a retired FBI agent and, get this, a publicist—would go. Private investigators aggressively tailed and photographed Doe and her parents for years. A poster was circulated in Doe's neighborhood soliciting dirt on her. Her medical records were illegally released to reporters. She was repeatedly called a "slut," and her female friends were privately convinced to alter their stories to match the defense's case. Haidl brought in a veteran Los Angeles porno star to testify that Doe was faking unconsciousness in the video while playing the role of a corpse. Not satisfied, he also paid a New York doctor to claim with all seriousness that Doe didn't need to give oral consent to the gangbang because her rectum had done so when it accepted the insertion of foreign objects. The defense team even got CBS show 48 Hours to broadcast a fact-ignoring feature sympathetic to their clients.
Observers also expected that Haidl's two best buddies, Sheriff Mike Carona and Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo might try to aid the accused rapists. Haidl had risen from San Bernardino County used-car salesman who'd made a fortune auctioning government vehicles to assistant sheriff with full police powers—without a minute of formal training. It probably helped that Haidl paid monthly cash bribes to Carona and Jaramillo, loaned them his private jet, bought them custom-made suits, as well as secretly funded their takeover of the Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD) in 1999 with hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal, undisclosed campaign contributions. In return, Carona and Jaramillo used back channels to sabotage Doe's case by threatening that Haidl would fund an election challenger to District Attorney Tony Rackauckas if the case weren't dropped or transferred to juvenile court.
But nobody could have anticipated that a 16-year-old, carefree, party-hungry Rancho Cucamonga girl would alter the course of Orange County history. Her arrival at the high-school-aged beer-and-pot party at Haidl's home near midnight on July 5, 2002, set in motion a series of events that would make national news, reveal wealth's corrupting influence on justice, alter California law about defense lawyers paying jurors, prompt rebellion inside the OCSD, expose the laziness of the mainstream media that blamed Doe, launch a federal grand jury, end promising careers and put several powerful individuals once blessed by the president of the United States in prison.