MARTINEZ -- A Richmond gang member was convicted Wednesday of committing a hate crime gang rape of a lesbian in a shocking 2008 attack that police say served as a turning point for people unwilling to cooperate with them in a community plagued by gang violence.
Humberto Salvador, 36, did not outwardly react as he was convicted of 15 felonies that will put him in prison for life, other than to glance at his sobbing mother. The jury deliberated for about eight hours before finding him guilty of kidnapping, carjacking, robbery, street terrorism and gang rape for the benefit of a criminal street gang, in addition to hate crime enhancements for targeting the victim because she is a lesbian.
"I think the case really galvanized people into the idea that enough is enough," Richmond police Chief Chris Magnus said. "It really touched a lot of people, and I think as awful as that crime was, there was a positive that came out of it, and that's a sense that a community can come together to not only provide tips but also to rally behind a victim in need of support."
It was the second high-profile gang rape trial out of Richmond this year. In August, two young men received lengthy sentences for their part in the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl on the Richmond High School campus in 2009.
Salvador and three gang associates were looting cars at 14th Street and Visalia Avenue late on Dec. 13, 2008, when they spotted the victim park and start walking toward her apartment. She was wearing a rainbow belt; her car was decorated with rainbow stickers.
"You like men now, don't you? Tell me you like men," the victim testified that Salvador told her, among other comments about her sexual orientation, during the sexual assault, before she was left naked and bleeding from the head in an abandoned carport blocks from her residence.
Outside the courtroom, jurors said they admired the victim, a Spanish-speaking immigrant in her 30s.
"We all felt it was a very brave action for her to testify," one woman on the jury said. "It was compelling for her to do that and let herself be heard."
The crime made national headlines and led to a deluge of tips that helped Richmond police identify the attackers. There was an outpouring of support for the victim, including a candlelight vigil and a fund that helped her relocate from scene of the attack.
Magnus credited the community, prosecutors and his police force for what he called a "very appropriate and fitting end" to the case.
"It sends a message that when you commit a crime with the added motivation of hate being part of what you are doing, there will be real consequences to that," Magnus said. "Richmond is a real diverse community, and it's important that people understand that we are not going to tolerate crimes where hate is a motivating factor, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation."
Salvador, Josue Gonzalez and then-teenagers Darrell Hodges and Robert Ortiz were looting cars in the neighborhood when Salvador alone approached her, according to trial testimony. He robbed her and struck her twice in the head with a large metal flashlight before forcing her to strip naked on the sidewalk.
She was bleeding profusely from the head throughout the assault, which continued in her car and the carport. After Salvador finished raping her, he directed the others to assault her themselves.
Hodges and Ortiz, who prosecutor Melissa Smith said were eager to prove themselves in Salvador's gang, joined in, while Gonzalez refused.
Hodges, 20, pleaded guilty to forcible oral copulation in concert and was sentenced earlier this month to 24 years in prison. Ortiz, 20, is awaiting trial. Gonzalez, 26, pleaded guilty to carjacking and is awaiting sentencing.
Salvador is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 21.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.