Photos courtesy pool photographer:
Mark Boster, L.A. TimesAt the May 3 start of the Orange County trial of three teenage boys accused of gang-raping an unconscious minor, a defense attorney made a startling assertion: the alleged victim enticed the "sweet," "caring," "kind" defendants into a sexual frenzy and then, while faking unconsciousness, sexually assaulted them. At one point, the attorney, an incredulous Joseph G. Cavallo, blurted out to the jury, "Why isn't she being charged with this crime?"
"She knew how to use her body. She knew how to use sex," said Cavallo, one of at least nine defense lawyers (not including the publicist, a jury consultant and an army of private investigators) representing Gregory Scott Haidl, 18; Kyle Joseph Nachreiner, 19; and Keith James Spann, 19. They've pleaded not guilty to 24 felony counts for the July 2002 Newport Beach incident. Referring to a video they made of the incident, Cavallo said, "The boys had every reason to believe she consented: she orchestrated it."
It was just one of the defense's many remarkable claims after apparently horrified jurors inspected prosecution-supplied photographs of the late night gang bang. The images (which I'll describe momentarily) are so disturbing that the defense team wasted no time calling the filmed episode repugnant, but blamed it solely on the 16-year-old girl known in court only as Jane Doe.
"The things she wanted done were done," said John Barnett, counsel for Nachreiner. "It's disgusting and it's awful. Who would consent to this? Jane Doe. Nobody is going to argue this isn't morally outrageous. It is, but it was a choice. . . . This is exactly what she wanted. They believed her when she says she wanted to be a porn star."
Peter Morreale, who represents Spann, claimed that Doe rarely wore panties and flirted, and that his client "was [then] 17 years old and tripping over himself" to have "consensual sex" with her. On the night of the alleged crime, Doe first rejected their invitation to come to their party.
"They were bummed that they're not going to get any!" said Morreale. Later, Doe changed her mind and drove to Newport Beach. When she called to say she'd arrive soon the boys "high-fived" each other. He claims the girl promised Nachreiner that she wanted a gang bang. "I'm not advocating this girl wanted to be the next Marilyn Chambers or a deep-throat expert, but that was her mentality," said Morreale.
In just his opening statement, a pacing, finger-pointing Cavallo told the jury that the girl—next to the tape itself, the prosecution's star witness--is "a nut," "a pathological liar," "a cheater," an "out-of-control girl," "the aggressor," a wanna-be "porn star," "a troubled young lady," "a tease--that's what she is!" "a mess," a "master manipulator," a "little opportunist," "a compulsive liar," "a cheat--that's what she is" and a "callous" drug addict and alcoholic who trimmed her pubic hair, bragged about liking group sex and once drank a beer in a car.
"Why was her vagina and anus completely shaved?" Cavallo asked jurors. "How many teenagers have a shaved vagina and anus? I don't know, but I can think of a reason. Sex! She's a sexual person!"
During preliminary hearings, Cavallo called Doe a "slut"; on this day, he stayed away from the word. However, he told the jury several times that everyone, including the girl's parents, "knows what she is." Talk outside the courtroom was less coy. In the hallway just outside, a defense consultant openly and repeatedly called Jane Doe "a fucking whore."
On the second day of the trial, two boys connected to Nachreiner were reprimanded for mad-dogging Lindsay Picou, a key prosecution witness, before she could testify.
Defense frustration is understandable. It's illegal in California to have sex with someone either unconscious or so intoxicated that they cannot resist or consent. Exhibit A for veteran Deputy District Attorney Dan Hess is the 21-minute video Haidl shot of the gang-bang with the unconscious girl. He then saved the tape as a souvenir for his high school friends.
Haidl, the son of a wealthy Orange County assistant sheriff, isn't bright. He lost the video at a Newport beach rental. The people who found it thought the boys had had intercourse with a corpse. One of them, Fontana resident Picou, 20, testified that she "felt ill" after seeing the tape and decided to turn it over to police. Investigators eventually found Jane Doe, who said she recalled passing out, waking up and vomiting but none of the sex.
The opening of the trial was delayed more than 30 minutes when the defense team requested an in-chambers meeting with Superior Court Judge Francisco Briseno and Hess. It's well-known around the courthouse that the defense would offer guilty pleas in exchange for maximum nine-month sentences. In Briseno's chambers, they pressed the judge to make an offer. He refused. They pressed Hess, who suggested 27-year sentences. The defense gave up frustrated.
On Day 2, in a hushed courtroom, the jury of eight men and four women watched the infamous tape on three television monitors carefully angled to thwart public viewing. It was an eerie setting. Those of us in the public seating section could hear only the audio of the incident, but we could look into the strained faces of clearly troubled jurors.
Haidl had provided a soundtrack to the sex recorded by his Sony Hand-Held camcorder. It was bass-heavy hip-hop, with lyrics such as, "We like pussy. We like pussy. We like pussy . . . Fuck an asshole too . . . We just want to have sex!"
The girl is heard only at the beginning of the tape, after the boys had given her a Bud Lite, a couple of hits of marijuana and a mixed drink they claim was Bombay Gin and 7-Up. Police suspect the drink, made by Nachreiner, was laced with GHB, a fast-acting synthetic drug occasionally used by date rapists. The illegal substance can knock out unsuspecting victims for hours.
Defense attorney Joe Cavallo
Hess had said the opening shot features Haidl on the garage sofa with Jane Doe, who is holding a beer. Haidl tries to lift her shirt.
"You're trying to take my clothes off, huh, Greg?" she says, slurring her words. "I'm so fucked up."
The three defendants smile into the camera. One of the boys says, "Slick-ass me!" Later, someone yells, "Nigger!"
The next scene shows a naked Doe on her knees in front of the couch. At first, it looks like she is orally copulating Nachreiner and is moving. But soon the viewer learns that a well-endowed Spann has entered the unconscious Doe doggy-style and Nachreiner is holding her head up, forcing her mouth up and down on his penis. Moans are heard. The boys mug happily for the camera.
Hess had earlier told the jury what comes next: "Haidl slaps Jane Doe hard on the buttock to which she doesn't respond." Nachreiner can be seen looking at the girl's unresponsive face, and says, "All right, she look pretty much good!"
The sex continues on the couch. The force of Spann's intercourse constantly moves her body. Nachreiner, still seeking oral pleasure, complains, "You're making her eat my fucking dick with her mouth. Come on!" He then lifts and holds Doe so that her body is on top of his. He enters her vagina. Spann tries to stick his penis in the girl's mouth, but her head swivels uncontrollably and he can't fit it in. Hess said Doe's body was "flopping like a rag doll." The defendants whisper and then point. "Pool table! Pool table!" they yell.
Moving the girl toward the pool table, they drop Doe on her face. According to prosecutors, she doesn't flinch.
Once on the pool table, Doe is again visibly unconscious. Her legs are spread, and Haidl zooms in for a close-up of Doe's genitals. He sticks his finger in and out of her vagina; she has no reaction. Wearing a red cap backwards, Spann mugs for the camera. Doe's face is shown, her eyes shut. She is motionless. Haidl returns for more shots of Doe's vagina. One of the defendants says, "Let me take your spot" and someone replies, "No. No. Fuck that! Fuck that!"
Hess said Spann next rapes Doe again. Haidl focuses the camera on Spann's penis entering Doe. From the public seating section, we can hear the sound of intercourse on something like a squeaky bed. "Oh, hell yeah! Oh, that feels great. That's fantastic! That feels so good. That's some fantastic shit. Oh yeah!" a boy says. Haidl takes shots of the girl's expressionless face from multiple angles. The boys laugh. Spann eventually pulls his penis out, masturbates until he ejaculates on Doe's stomach, grabs her bra, uses it to wipe off his penis and then tosses it on the floor. Shaking his hand sideways—like a baseball umpire--Spann apparently signals to his buddies that Doe is still out.
But the video goes on.
Haidl grabs a Snapple bottle and laughs as he pushes it into Doe's vagina. He then switches to a small aluminum fruit juice can, but has difficulty inserting it into Doe's vagina along with the bottle. One of the defendants says helpfully, "Just spit on it and it will go in deep." The camera zooms to Doe's unconscious face. Laughter. Haidl spits on her vagina and shoves the bottle in faster and harder and says, "Oh, yeah!" He alternates using the bottle and the can for penetration. More laughter. Nachreiner holds the bottle up to Doe's face. Spann pulls and pushes on Doe's nipple. Haidl puts a burning cigarette filter-first into Doe's vagina and leaves it there. Laughter.
The last section of the video shows Haidl and Nachreiner penetrating Doe's vagina with the large end of a regulation-sized pool stick. They shove it in repeatedly, dance, laugh and mug for the camera. Haidl slaps her stomach three times in rhythm with the blaring hip-hop music. One defendant asks—out of curiosity or perhaps as a challenge--how deeply they can force the pool stick. Spann and Haidl put their hands on Doe's lower abdomen to see whether they can feel the penetrated stick. Nachreiner jams the pool stick into her vagina until Haidl holds Doe's butt cheeks apart so Nachreiner can insert the stick into her anus. During penetration, Haidl slaps her butt hard. Doe lies seemingly lifeless. The boys toss Doe on her stomach. They use the pool stick on her vagina, anus and then on her vagina again. Doe does not so much as flinch, but begins peeing on herself; a puddle spreads on the pool table. There is laughter and giggling. Someone says, "Fuck, yeah!" Then another defendant yells, "Stop! Stop!"
Spann runs off-screen, into the Haidls' house. Doe's body looks as if it might fall off the pool table.
Haidl turns off the Sony Hand-Held camera at 2:10 am.
"She couldn't fight back," Hess had said in his opening statement. "She couldn't say 'no.' They took turns raping her and they danced with joy when they did it. . . . They danced, smiled and laughed."
During the viewing, the three defendants sat facing the jury. Nachreiner scribbled on a notepad and only rarely looked up and then away as if bored. Spann kept his eyes mostly on the table in front of him. Haidl watched occasionally and looked nauseated. The teens wore slacks and a white or blue button-down with a tie each day--no suits; apparently the defense is hoping to strike a prep-school look. When jurors watched the defendants insert the foreign objects, all three boys stared down. Morreale studied his notes. Barnett busied himself with paperwork. Cavallo's eyes darted quizzically between the monitor and the jury box.
Jurors watched intensely. Many looked disgusted. A few took notes. During certain graphic moments on the video, heads jerked back and pained expressions formed. At the conclusion, several sighed. Two shook their heads. One female juror glared momentarily at the defendants, who seemed determined to avoid eye contact. In that instant, defense lawyers might have accepted Hess's offer of 27-year terms.
The trial is expected to last until late June, but this defense team--which will parade numerous witnesses to destroy Jane Doe's character--is resilient. Within minutes of the video viewing, they fired back. The videotape is "our best weapon," Morreale told the jury. "This case is not about what's on the screen, but about what you can't see."
Defense attorney John Barnett
It was a heavy television day for the jury, which wrapped up Day 2 with another video, this one of a July 9 post-incident medical exam of Doe's mouth, vagina and anus. On the witness stand, nurse Patricia Young testified that Doe's tongue and head were sore and that there were patches of redness in her throat. During a genital inspection, she said, "there were so many tears" that she could see many without the aid of a scope. She discovered 10 "jagged" tears in the rectum alone.
When it was Barnett's turn to cross-examine Young, he pounced. He proposed that the injuries could be caused by either consensual or non-consensual sex.
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"Right," said Young.
(For previous coverage of the Haidl gang rape case, please use theOC Weekly online search engine. Watch this site for further updates.)