richmond_high.jpgA young man linked to a 2009 gang rape at Richmond High School implicated one of his codefendants in the case as the first person to sexually assault the teenage girl, according to testimony today from a police detective.

During an interrogation last year, Manuel Ortega told police Detective Eric Smith that Jose Montano, 19, was the first to allegedly force sex on the 16-year-old victim, Smith testified today in a preliminary hearing in the case in Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez.

The victim told police Detective Ken Greco the day after the assault that she had gone to the high school’s homecoming dance the night of Oct. 24, 2009, Greco testified earlier in the hearing.

A Contra Costa Health Services nurse testified that the victim told her the day after the assault that she had left the dance and was going to call her father to pick her up when a boy she knew, Cody Smith, 16, started talking to her through a fence and invited her to drink with is friends.

Among Smith’s friends was Salvador Rodriguez, who said during an interrogation with Detective Smith that he was sitting with the group at the benches, according to Smith’s testimony.

Rodriguez said he touched the girl while her clothing was still on, near the beginning of the assault, Detective Smith testified today.

The group began drinking brandy stolen by Rodriguez and Cody Smith from a nearby FoodMaxx, Smith testified.

In the course of events, Ortega allegedly punched the victim in the face after she refused to engage in sexual activity, the detective testified.

Both Ortega and Cody Smith have 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, Elvis Torrentes, 22, and Montano.

Cody Smith, Morales and Peter were juveniles at the time of the assault but have been charged as adults.

Rodriguez was arrested on Oct. 27, Detective Smith said, and was interrogated for nearly six hours over two days. He was later released without charges, police said.

When he was cross-examined, Detective Smith said Rodriguez alleged the girl had been drinking by her own choice, that she was flirting and that she was engaging in some sort of petting behavior.

Smith said he questioned the credibility of some of Rodriguez’s statements.

Testimony in the preliminary hearing will continue Thursday.

The hearing is to allow a judge to determine whether there is enough evidence to bring the case to trial.

Saul Sugarman, Bay City News

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