[Editor's note: This is a compilation of Moxley's Friday dispatches from the courthouse. For additional reader comments, please see his original posts.]
The naive thought this morning's Haidl 3 sentencing would last maybe 20 minutes. Around 11:30 a.m., Judge Francisco Briseno decided it was time for lunch.
Veteran journalists say they haven't seen such a crowd since the 1989 trial of serial killer Randy Kraft. Shouting matches broke out over seats. The Times and Reg sent SWAT teams of reporters. The three defendants–Greg Haidl, Kyle Nachreiner and Keith Spann–were brought in chained together wearing orange jumpsuits. Haidl's head is almost shaved; he's wearing glasses these days.
Everyone knew that Jane Doe would speak. The surprise of the morning was that two of the three defendants also spoke. Haidl took a deep breath and then read his statement in a plodding manner, almost inaudibly. He apologized to Jane Doe. “It was never my intention to cause you pain,” he said. She sat in the front row, looking away. “If there's anything I can do . . . .” he said, and then trailed off. “What happened that night was not planned or plotted,” he continued. “It was a miniscule piece of what I was. I wake up everyday and feel bad about the people I hurt. Someone was hurt because of my acts.”
Nachreiner seems the most emotional of the three. He too apologized for his “repugnant actions,” said “I accept full responsibility” and assured the court that his time in jail “gave him time to reflect on his life.” He summed it up: “I was leading a self-destructive life.” He was more eloquent, even elegant; his supporters openly wept. Even Haidl pere Don Haidl wiped a tear. Nachreiner said he wants something positive to come from this, maybe teach kids what he's learned. He ended with this to Jane Doe: “My heart goes out to you.”
There was nothing from Spann. Moments later his mother explained he's not a good public speaker.
The parents of the defendants also spoke, and each repeatedly offered Jane Doe and her family an apology. Their sons are repentant, they said, and remorseful. What they did back in July 2002 on a pool table in a Newport Beach garage was unforgivable—but forgive, they begged. Don Haidl approached the podium, coughed and in a voice shaped by cigarettes and something like chronic bronchitis—”deep” and “gravelly” don't begin to describe it–apologized to the judge, prosecutors and the family. He said, “The girl and her family are not my enemies. They never were. This has been a complete tragedy.” He blasted media reports that his son is a “rich, spoiled kid” as “pure garbage.” He claimed Greg has showed remorse every day for his actions.
Despite the sudden show of remorse, the morning's highlight was still the testimony of Jane Doe, who spoke after her parents described how their longtime marriage has been suddenly difficult. Her father remembered waking up to hear his daughter crying in the middle of the night—always the same dream with the same guys. Speaking of the 2004 jury deadlock in the first round of the Haidl case, Doe's mother said, “I felt like she had been raped again—this time by the judicial system.”
Doe said she long thought July 6, 2002, the morning after the rape, would be the worst day of her life. But then, she said, the harassment began. The Haidl private detectives tailing her, exposing her, rifling the family trash cans. She was abused on the witness stand by the Haidl defense team, she said. “First they took my life,” she said, “and then they took my identity.” One of the Haidl detectives was calling out her name on the high school campus. Then came the first trial, in 2004, when a jury returned deadlocked. She was scared—a victim treated as a perpetrator. When the second trial came in 2005, she considered suicide and then decided, “I was not going to let these men take my last breath too.” Turning to the Haidl 3, she asked, “When did I become a piece of meat and not a friend?” She called them “sexual predators” who should spend “multiple years behind bars.”
One man not present: lead defense attorney Joseph G. Cavallo. After the guilty verdict, his relationship with Haidl Sr. went way south.
This afternoon, after defense attorneys argue for probation, Briseno is scheduled to sentence the defendants. He gave one singular hint about his perspective on the case: “Clearly,” he said at the outset, “Jane Doe is completely out of it, unconscious, when she is on the pool table.”
At 4:07, Briseno finally put an end to the long-running saga of the Haidl 3, sentencing Greg Haidl, Kyle Nachreiner and Keith Spann to six years in state prison.
The defendants seemed to have expected nothing less; their supporters wept.
The judge's decision put a cap on an afternoon that saw the defense switch tactics. In the morning, we heard the defendants and their supporters protest their remorse. That changed after lunch, when Haidl's attorney, Al Stokke, went after Jane Doe, denying that her emotional stress could be positively linked to the attack. He criticized a prosecutor's request that the three not be segregated from the general prison population as “without question, the most outrageous position I have ever seen.” It was tantamount, he said, to “calling for their murder.”
When it was his turn, Brisneo said he didn't buy the defendants' claims of remorse; they were, he suggested, too little, too late. Nor could he ignore the “egregiousness” of the attack, noting that the defendants laughed and joked while their victim lay unclothed and unconscious on the pool table. He ripped into the defense team's suggestion that Doe had a history of using foreign objects as sexual toys, saying there was no evidence to support such a claim
The defendants took advantage of their victim's trust, Brisneo said.
Based on numerous doctors interviews with the Haidl 3, Brisneo had concluded that only “a lengthy period of time” in prison could help them “abate” their alcohol and substance abuse.
“Victim never consented to being degraded.”
The press conference showed that Briseno had called it: the defendants' claims of remorse were indeed insincere.
In the morning we heard the defendants and their supporters apologize to Jane Doe and her family. They offered help. They promised to change. They took responsibility.
A few hours later, before sentencing the Haidl 3, Judge Briseno said he attributed the remorse to “self-pity” because they were so likely headed to prison. And indeed, when he sentenced the Haidl 3 to six years each in a state prison–plus lifetime registration as sex offenders–the awkward honeymoon was over.
Speaking at the post-sentencing press conference, Haidl attorney Al Stokke said, “Yes, we will appeal the sentence and the conviction.”
He went on to say that his client, who will serve just 21 months of actual prison time, “is a very mature person now.”
John Barnett, attorney for Kyle Nachreiner, took the microphone next. “Everybody lost today. There were no victors,” he complained. “It's hard to put a pretty face on state prison for teenagers.” Nachreiner is now 21.
But Keith Spann's attorney, Peter Morreale, pulled out the sharpest knife. He called Judge Briseno's sentence “a bit excessive,” then called him an excellent judge and took aim at District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. It was not Spann who should be ashamed, he said, but the DA. “The way the prosecutor's office pursued this matter was unconscionable,” Morreale said. “There was a political agenda that drove this case. A lot of politics were involved. It should have been handled professionally.” In answer to a reporter's question, he called the prosecution “a witch hunt.” He blamed the DA for “dragging everyone through the mud, including the victim.”
It was Morreale who, in court, famously asked Jane Doe if she liked to swallow after oral sex.
Sheldon Lodmer, the civil lawyer for Jane Doe, applauded the DA, saying Rackauckas showed “a lot of fortitude.” He said the defense had lost the trial in part because of “dastardly attacks on my client.” He said Jane Doe and her family were pleased that the judge sentenced the Haidl 3 to state prison, but had not had time to digest the prison terms.
Assistant DA Chuck Middleton, who won the second trial, shot back at the defense. “Even today,” the prosecutor said, “the defense is still victimizing the victim.” He said he had hoped for longer sentences.
DA Rackauckas said, “This case captured the county and the country's attention because of the defense's relentless and ruthless win-at-all-costs actions before, during and after the trial.”