A young man previously convicted in the group rape of a 16-year-old girl four years ago testified against two other suspects on Thursday.
Ari Morales, 19, never testified during his own trial in January. His comments last week marked the first time his version of events has been recorded in court. The testimony is part of a new trial against suspects Marcelles Peter, 20, and Jose Montano, 22, both of whom were charged with rape, rape with a foreign object and forced oral copulation.
The attack occurred during the Richmond High School homecoming dance in October 2009. The victim, identified as Jane Doe (the judge instructed media not to use her real name), was raped and beaten for more than two hours in a dark high school courtyard. As she was abused, onlookers chanted, laughed and shouted encouragement to the attackers. No one called the police.
Doe was unconscious with severe head trauma when she was finally taken to the hospital. There were multiple lacerations, bruises, abrasions and swelling on her head, toes, ankle, chin and ears.
Morales told prosecuting attorney John Cope that he was “stupid” to have participated in the attack on Doe. He was sentenced to 27 years in prison after pleading guilty to rape by a foreign object in concert, and no-contest to rape in concert and forcible oral copulation in concert.
Morales said in court that he had not been able to gain entry to the dance, so he hung around the courtyard instead. Eventually, he approached a small crowd that had gathered around the unconscious girl near a picnic table. There were “20 or more people in a circle,” Morales said. Within the circle, several boys surrounded Doe.
“Nothing [happened] at first,” Morales said. Then, after about 10 minutes, a boy named Manuel Ortega (currently serving 32 years) began punching her, “repeatedly, more than 10 times,” he said. “Ortega was trying to orally copulate. He kept grabbing her and punching her.”
Morales said he watched Montano “take a condom out of his pocket and try to put it on.”
“Did he try to do it, or did he do it?” prosecutor John Cope asked.
“He did it,” Morales said. “He got the condom in his hand and was going up and down on her. I don’t know for how long.”
“So [Ortega] was punching her when Mr. Montano was having sex with her?” Cope asked.
“Yeah,” Morales said. “I was watching and the crowd was watching. Montano got up and threw the condom away.”
As Doe lay “moaning and groaning,” Morales said he stole a ring off her finger and urinated on her. Shortly after, he retracted his statement about urinating on the victim, and instead said that he inserted a walkie-talkie antenna into her.
Dr. Jim Carpenter, who examined Doe in the hospital emergency room, testified that she probably would have died if she hadn’t received immediate care. “She was cold, her body was getting colder and colder,” Carpenter said. “She needed ICU care, needed multiple interventions.”
“She was dramatically inebriated with 0.355 alcohol level,” he said. Doe, however, previously testified that she did not drink with the defendants and does not remember consuming alcohol that night.
One student eyewitness, Robert Barroga, testified on Thursday that he tried to stop a group of people as they were dragging the girl by her feet, but no one would listen to him. “A lot of people were yelling ‘slap her ass,’” Barroga said.
Doe was sitting at one of the picnic tables when “they picked her up and pulled her over to the dumpster,” Barroga said. “A lot of laughing was going on. Someone started pouring alcohol around her. A skateboard was used to touch her vagina.”
The trial will continue throughout this week at Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez.