Courtesy pool photographer
Michael Goulding/The Orange
County RegisterThe son of a millionaire assistant sheriff when he and two buddies filmed themselves raping an unconscious minor during a 2002 Newport Beach party, Greg Haidl has blamed cops, prosecutors, reporters, and the victim and her parents for his subsequent legal troubles, while Haidl's defense team argued it was impossible to rape a 16-year-old high school sophomore they described as a "slut." When those strategies failed, Haidl faulted alcohol and drugs—anyone and anything but himself, the guy on the video shouting, "Put it down for the militia, bitch!" as his co-defendants repeatedly plunged a pool cue into the victim's vagina and anus.
Only one person escaped Haidl's finger-pointing: Superior Court Judge Francisco Briseo. But those familiar with the plot-twisting, three-year-old gang-rape saga figured it was only a matter of time before Briseo, the presiding judge when a jury convicted the trio last March, would be blamed, too.
Time's up: on July 22, Haidl will claim Orange County's most senior criminal judge presided over an unfair trial.
Never mind that Haidl's dad spent at least $6 million on 10 lawyers, three teams of private detectives, O.J. Simpson's jury consultant, focus groups, public-relations consultants, a porn star who served as an expert witness, and a full-time graphics designer who produced the courtroom presentations that appeared on Haidl's own 50-inch plasma-screen TV. By contrast, Assistant District Attorney Chuck Middleton usually walked into court armed only with notes handwritten on a yellow legal pad and the fact that, in California, it's illegal to have sex with an unconscious person.
Forget also that Briseo showed remarkable liberality, letting the Haidl defenders showboat, fib, filibuster and smear without sanction. Haidl, the 20-year-old heir to a fortune estimated in the tens of millions of dollars, says he's "entitled to a new trial."
According to defense claims, Briseo gave a faulty jury instruction freeing the DA from having to prove Haidl had "specific intent" to arouse or gratify himself during the rape. Further, the defense says, the judge "erroneously prevented" the defense from questioning the victim about her alleged desire to profit from an experience Haidl's lawyers declared "enjoyable." Finally, the Haidl legal team says the judge unfairly blocked thorough examination of the girl's sexual history and prejudiced the trial by killing defense plans to call a porn star as an expert witness.
It's a remarkable series of claims, but coutroom observers will note that defense lawyer Mark E. Overland, who wrote the brief, didn't have the stomach to advance the biggest ruse of the proceedings: the defense team's anemic claim that Newport Beach police doctored the video to frame Haidl, the son of then-Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl. This is the tape that young Haidl made and then, after showing it proudly to his high school buddies, lost. The person who found the tape and gave it to police thought the trio had had sex with a dead girl.
Last November, before the trial began, Briseo put Haidl in jail because he repeatedly violated conditions of his bail. The judge sent Haidl's co-defendants, Kyle Nachreiner and Keith Spann, to join him immediately after the jury's guilty verdicts.
The defense has delayed sentencing to keep their clients in county lockup as long as possible. Sources close to the legal team say they fear the trio will become sex toys inside California's notorious state prisons.
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Jail Baitis just one of Sharon Mitchell's many films. During the past quarter century, Mitchell has appeared in more than 1,000 porn movies, including The Gangbang Girl, Furburgersand Both Ends Burning. She's also been on the Haidl family payroll as a potential expert witness and was supposed to buttress the most interesting claim of Haidl lawyer Joseph G. Cavallo: the victim orchestrated the filmed gangbang and pretended to be unconscious so she could launch a career as a porn star.
But the prosecution revealed the victim was unable to consent to the sex. After the defendants gave her beer, marijuana and a glass of Bombay Gin, she announced she was "so fucked-up" and passed out at the party. The videotape shows she didn't react when the assailants slapped and pinched her breasts; didn't flinch or respond in any way when they shoved a pool cue, Snapple bottle, juice can and lit cigarette into her vagina and anus; and lay motionless on a pool table throughout, eventually losing bladder control and peeing herself. She later vomited profusely. The defense wanted the jury to believe that Haidl was, as defense lawyer John Barnett claimed, "giving her exactly what she wanted": a necrophilia-themed porno.
Enter Mitchell. Briseo patiently listened to the veteran porn star outside the presence of the jury. She wanted to be admitted as an expert witness to testify that porn stars occasionally exaggerate intoxication and fake unconsciousness in films. There is, she said, a market for sex movies of actresses "pretending to be dead."
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Briseo declared the proffered testimony irrelevant.
Many observers thought Haidl's legal claims were dead. But his recent defense motion, built on the claim that Briseo prejudiced the jury by blocking Mitchell, proves that money can't buy you love, but it can delay justice.
To see our extensive Haidl case archives, go to www.ocweekly.com/county/index.php#haidl.