All photos courtesy pool
photographer Ygnacio Nanetti/
The Orange County RegisterGang-rape defendant Greg Haidl stands each time the jury enters or exits the courtroom. Jurors see Haidl lock his hands as if in prayer, slouch his shoulders and bow his head. Although he's a self-described skater dude who loves wild parties and illegal substances, he now wears clothes out of a 1960s catalog: khaki pants with a preppy, solid-color button-down shirt accentuated by a sleeveless gray sweater. He's traded his spiky hairdo for a buzz cut. When one of his lawyers calls him "an innocent little boy," the 19-year-old Haidl tilts his head to the side and contorts his face into sad, silent pleading.
But on Feb. 10, Haidl momentarily forgot his angelic act. He smiled and laughed. The cause of his amusement? Jane Doe, the alleged rape victim, cried during cross examination by Haidl defense attorney Joseph G. Cavallo. It's unknown if any jurors saw Haidl's glee. Judge Francisco Briseo ordered the jury out of the courtroom until Doe regained her composure. According to prosecutors, Haidl also laughed when he and his two co-defendants filmed themselves plunging a pool cue, Snapple bottle, juice can and lit cigarette into an unconscious 16-year-old Doe's vagina and anus during a 2002 Newport Beach party.
There is good reason for Haidl's joy. Like the first case that ended in deadlock last June, this trial is shaping up as another referendum on Doe, whose pre-rape promiscuity gives the defense ample fodder. Prosecutor Chuck Middleton is prohibited from questioning the defendants or telling jurors about their other misdeeds. The defense is under no such constraint.
Prosecutor Chuck Middleton
Hour after hour, Cavallo grilled and mocked Doe. He questioned her more than a dozen times about giving "road head" to one of the defendants weeks before the alleged rape. He made her explain "road head"—orally copulating someone who's driving a vehicle. He quizzed her about her favorite sexual positions, anal intercourse, sex toys, bathroom practices, consuming alcohol, lying to her parents, teasing men and dressing without underwear. He forced her to relive the moments when she realized she'd been assaulted. It was then that Doe, now 18, first wept on the witness stand.
The tears only encouraged the defense. With the girl distraught, Cavallo made a brilliant if tricky move that may have impressed some members of the jury. Doe has always maintained that she passed out after the defendants gave her beer, marijuana and alcohol and has no memory of the events recorded by Haidl on his Sony Handheld video recorder. On an earlier trial day, Middleton had dramatically asked Doe if she consented to any of the things done to her. Doe forcefully responded, "No" to the series of questions.
But, Cavallo asked, "If you have no memory of what happened, how do you know you didn't consent?" The question—asked over and over by the defense lawyer—confused, annoyed and then unnerved Doe. "So your answers to Mr. Middleton's questions about consent can't be true because you don't remember anything."
Joe Cavallo Doe shook her head. "I wouldn't consent to such acts," she said. When Cavallo showed no sign of retreating, Doe began to weep again. She placed her hand over the microphone, turned to Briseo and between sobs said, "He's confusing me so much." Haidl laughed.
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Briseo ordered the jury out of the room and calmed the girl. Minutes later, the trial continued, and Cavallo attacked again. "Shouldn't your answers to Mr. Middleton's questions have been 'I don't remember'?" Doe looked and sounded beaten as the two rehashed the same material over and over. She eventually placed her face in the palm of her right hand. The interrogation lasted another four hours that day.
When the trial resumes Feb. 22, it will be Middleton's job to remind jurors that even if Doe had given advanced consent, it is unlawful to have sex with a person who falls incoherent or unconscious. The Haidl video, which hasn't been shown to jurors yet, contains damning evidence against the defendants: as they used Doe's body on a pool table, the defendants can be seen signaling one another that the girl was knocked out.
No doubt Cavallo has plans to undermine the 21-minute homemade video, too. But after a day of questioning Doe, he believed he'd impressed the jury. "She's a liar," said Cavallo, who has stopped calling the girl a "slut" in this trial. "I will do anything possible for success. I'm not going to back down. That's not my style."