MARTINEZ -- A former Richmond High School student testified Thursday that the day after a sophomore girl was gang raped on the school's campus in 2009, three of his acquaintances were "laughing and joking" about how they participated in the assault.
"I was uncomfortable talking about the situation because it made me feel like that type of thing should never happen at any schoolhouse...," a 19-year-old man said as he twisted and fidgeted in his chair at the dual jury trial for 20-year-old Pinole resident Marcelles Peter and 22-year-old Richmond resident Jose Montano.
The witness, whom this newspaper is not naming because he fears retaliation, was the first youth to take the stand at the trial where the defendants are each facing life in prison on charges that they participated in the Oct. 24, 2009, gang rape that occurred in a dark campus courtyard after the victim left a homecoming dance and began drinking with a group of boys.
The witness said he was a high school freshman when, the day after the gang rape, he heard Peter say he penetrated the girl with his fingers, Montano say he had sex with her and Ari Morales say he urinated on her. Morales, 19, of Pinole, and 22-year-old Richmond resident Manuel Ortega took plea deals in the case and were sentenced to 27 and 32 years, respectively.
Two other men are awaiting trial, and a number of males whose DNA was connected to the crime have never been identified.
The 19-year-old witness said he was at home the night of the gang rape, although questions from both the prosecutor and the defense attorneys indicate he originally told a Richmond police detective -- in a videotaped interview -- that he saw at least a portion of the assault and that he and another boy "tried to help" the victim by picking her up and placing her on a bench. He also told the detective he saw some "skaters beating her up," according to a defense attorney's question.
On the stand Thursday, the 19-year-old testified that the Richmond police detective "tried to put words in my mouth."
"Like on TV, when they say 'badgering the witness,' that's what he was doing," he said. "He tried to make it sound like I was there, but I wasn't."
While what happened to the girl made him feel "upset" and "emotionally baffled," the witness said he didn't want to talk to the detective back then, and he didn't want to testify at the trial.
When asked why, he said, "because I was sort of afraid of what might happen."
The jurors on Thursday were shown a photo of the victim before she went to the dance that night and was beaten, raped and sexually abused for up to 2½ hours after becoming sick from drinking brandy. Looking more like a girl than a woman, she stood smiling in her new, sparkly purple dress.
When police found her just before midnight, she was nude except for the dress twisted and bunched above her waist. She was covered in scrapes and bruises and was suffering from head trauma and a near-fatal blood alcohol level of .35.
The trial resumes Tuesday with testimony from crime scene investigators.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.