One of the seven defendants in the 2009 Richmond High School gang rape case told a detective that he backhanded the victim across her face “because she wouldn’t shut up” during the assault, the detective testified in court today.
“She was whining ‘No, no,'” and screaming for help, Manuel Ortega, 20, allegedly told retired Richmond police detective Ken Greco, according to Greco’s testimony today in a preliminary hearing in the case.
She allegedly scratched Ortega on the neck when he tried to take her necklace. And after the first person allegedly raped her, she started kicking and telling them to get away.
At other times during the alleged assault, the victim was described as unconscious and “out of it.”
The victim, who was 16 at the time of the attack, told Greco the day after the alleged rape that she had gone to the high school’s homecoming dance on the night of Oct. 24, 2009.
She had left the dance and was going to call her father to have him come pick her up when Cody Smith, 16, a boy she had known since seventh grade, started talking to her through a fence. He invited her to come drink with him and his friends.
Greco said the victim told him that Smith jumped over the fence and then walked her around to a courtyard area with picnic tables on the north side of campus so she wouldn’t have to jump the fence in her dress.
The victim said there were about five other people at a picnic table and that they were drinking brandy that Smith said he had stolen, according to Greco.
Greco said the victim told him that she didn’t ordinarily drink, but she was upset that night because she had just found out that her father was leaving her mother and her mother didn’t know about it yet.
The group was passing the bottle of brandy around and the victim said she remembered chugging from it, Greco said.
Then she told him she “felt like a bobble head,” got dizzy and doesn’t remember anything else until she woke up in the hospital with a tube down her throat.
Greco said the victim told him she had not engaged in any sexual activity before she blacked out and that she would have said “no” and put a stop to it if anybody had tried to come on to her.
Greco also testified that the day after the assault, he interviewed Ortega, who was arrested as he allegedly ran from the scene.
Ortega allegedly told Greco that there were about 10 or 20 males assaulting the victim as waves of people came by to see what was happening. Somebody had lifted up the victim’s dress and people were taking pictures with their cell phone cameras, Greco said.
People were also fondling her, and one person urinated on her as she lay on the ground, Ortega allegedly told the detective.
Ortega said his friend Salvador Rodriguez was the only person who tried to help the victim.
Rodriguez was originally arrested in connection with the assault, but he was later released without charges, police said.
Rodriguez allegedly told the group, “‘This is somebody’s sister, somebody’s daughter,'” Greco said, but somebody else said, “‘Hey, you don’t know that bitch.'”
Ortega allegedly told the detective that somebody named “Joe” was the first to have sex with the victim.
Greco said that during his investigation into the case, he also spoke with a man who told him he had been hanging out near the high school when somebody came up to him and told him there was a drunk, naked girl at the school that people were having sex with.
The man said he thought the situation sounded wrong and, after about 20 minutes, he went home and told his roommates. One of his roommates called 911.
The call came in to the Police Department’s dispatch center at 11:48 p.m.
When police arrived, they saw a group of males run from the area.
They found the victim bent over a metal bar underneath a picnic table with her dress pulled up to expose the lower part of her body. At first they thought she was dead, but when one of the officers shook her, she moaned.
Smith and Ortega have both been charged in the case, along with San Pablo resident Ari Morales, 17; Pinole resident Marcelles Peter, 18; and Richmond residents John Crane Jr., 43, Jose Montano, 19 and Elvis Torrentes, 22.
Smith, Morales and Peter were juveniles at the time of the assault but have been charged as adults.
On Oct. 27, police served a search warrant at Morales’ house and found condoms that were the same brand and same lot number as condoms found at the scene.
Morales was arrested during the search, and Greco said he interviewed him at the police station.
Morales allegedly gave several different accounts of what he was doing that night, but he eventually admitted that he had been there.
“I’ll be straight up honest with you,” he said, according to Greco’s report. “All I did was pee on her and take her ring.”
At a different point in the interview, Morales allegedly admitted that he had inserted the antenna of a walkie-talkie into the victim “out of silliness” and wiggled it around.
Morales said he saw Ortega kneeling on the ground trying to force the victim to give him oral sex. When she didn’t do it, he allegedly started beating and “torturing” her, Morales told Greco.
Morales told the detective that he had told Peter that the alleged rape was taking place, and Peter allegedly went to “check it out.”
He also said that Torrentes was there and that Torrentes had slapped the victim.
During the interview with police, Morales wrote a letter of apology to the victim, which began, “My name is Ari Morales and I apologize for taking your ring off your hand and for urinating on you.”
When the detectives asked Ortega if he wanted to write a letter of apology to the victim, he allegedly said, “I don’t think she’d forgive me. I think that’s f—ed up to say I’m sorry for getting you drunk and letting people rape you,” according to Greco’s report.
According to Greco, DNA evidence linked Crane to the assault as well.
On cross-examination by Smith’s attorney, David Headley, Greco said that both Ortega and Morales said that Smith never touched the victim.
Ortega said that Smith left before the alleged assault began, and Morales, who allegedly joined the group later, never mentioned seeing Smith.
Headley and the six other defense attorneys will be cross-examining Greco on Tuesday in Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez.
The hearing, which began last Monday, is to allow a judge to determine whether there is enough evidence to bring the case to trial.
Caitilin McAdoo, Bay City News