Kiss Haidl Goodbye

Courtesy pool photographer
Michael Goulding/The Orange
County Register
OnWednesdayafternoon,almostthree years after they raped an unconscious 16-year-old girl on a pool table in the garage of a Newport Beach home, the Haidl Three finally came to justice—not with a bang, but with the somber, discernible click of handcuffs snapped on their wrists in a Santa Ana courtroom.

The three—Greg Haidl, Kyle Nachreiner and Keith Spann—were still sitting at the defense table when deputies following a judge's order stepped up behind them and took them into custody.

By then, the jury that deliberated for three days before finding them guilty on 15 of 27 felonies had been escorted by guards from the courtroom.

The click of handcuffs reverberated through the room like the slamming of a door. Haidl supporters wept, groaned and cursed.

Who's sorry now? Kyle
Nachreiner (top); Greg
Haidl (middle); and
Keith Spann (bottom)

Jurors declared Haidl guilty on six felonies, Spann on five and Nachreiner on four. They face sentences ranging from probation to 18 years for Haidl, 16 for Spann and 14 for Nachreiner.

Judge Francisco Briseo denied bail "based on the seriousness of the charges and the convictions here." By law, sentencing should take place within 20 days, but the defense exercised its right to request a delay until May 20.

That pause will give Haidl's dream team time to shift gears—from attacking the victim to proving that her attackers are all-American.

Since the July 2002 rape, Haidl's lawyers deployed what has generously been called "a spirited defense." Early on they insisted Haidl wouldn't spend a day in jail; that proved wrong when Haidl repeatedly ran afoul of the law. His attorneys called the victim, identified only as Jane Doe, a "slut." They argued that she, not her assailants, ought to have been charged with rape. They hired private detectives to gather dirt on the girl, to trail the family, and to solicit the damning testimony of Doe's high school friends. Expert witnesses paid for by Haidl's father, a former assistant sheriff and multimillionaire car dealer, said Doe was faking unconsciousness while the three boys penetrated her.

The jury disagreed. Only Haidl was convicted of inserting a smoldering cigarette into Doe's vagina. All three were found guilty of using a pool cue, juice can and Snapple bottle during the late-night party.

"Jane Doe endured unprecedented personal attacks," said District Attorney Tony Rackauckas of the defense team's trial behavior in court. The lesson for the public, he said, was that "performing sex acts on an unconscious woman is a crime."

"It was a proper verdict," Rackauckas said. "The message it sends is that this will not be open-season on women."

Deputy DA Chuck Middleton said jurors "did a good job of looking through the smoke."

Neither Doe nor her family were present for the verdict. But her attorney said the girl was "happy" and "vindicated."

There was only one moment of hope for the Haidl Three. Just after the jury's return around 1 p.m., Briseo's court clerk Susan Hauer began reading the charges. On the first charge, oral copulation, the jury offered no verdict. It was a flicker of hope extinguished immediately with the reading of the second count—penetration with a finger—and the jury's findings of guilty for Haidl and Spann. The remaining charges and guilty verdicts fell like blows on the defendants. The usually cocky, even hostile defendants wept. Defense attorney Joseph G. Cavallo held Greg Haidl's hand.

Prayers unanswered (top);
The cuffs heard 'round
the courtroom (bottom)

Jurors refused to speak afterward, except for the foreman who said only, "We worked very hard, and I'm happy with the job we did."

Among Haidl's lawyers, only John Barnett would speak to the press. "We don't know" what went wrong with the defense, he said. "I don't have any answers to that. I'm very disappointed, of course. But everyone knew this day might come. I think it's a tragedy for everyone."


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