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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Convicted Teen Rapist Arrested in Mall Attack

October 31, 2000|TINA DIRMANN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

THOUSAND OAKS — Just months after his release from jail on a statutory rape conviction--and weeks after a judge declined to revoke the man's probation--a 19-year-old Ventura man is again in custody on suspicion of rape.

Authorities say Britton White raped an 18-year-old woman in a dressing room at The Oaks shopping center Sunday afternoon. Investigators arrested White inside the mall nearly an hour after the alleged attack.

He is being held in lieu of $110,000 bail at the Ventura County Jail.

Four months ago, White was released on probation, having served eight months for having sex with a 14-year-old girl in October 1999. White was charged with forcible rape, but the count was reduced to statutory rape.

On Aug. 27, White was arrested on suspicion of being under the influence and grand theft for allegedly stealing CDs, a laptop computer and a cellular phone from his father, Camarillo attorney Timothy White. The arrest prompted a Probation Department report recommending that Judge Bruce Clark revoke White's probation and put him back behind bars.

Clark disagreed, however, and reinstated White's probation.

The probation report did not include another incident in 1997 when White, then 15, was arrested on suspicion of raping a 16-year-old girl he met at a coffee shop in downtown Ventura. Charges in that case were dropped.

In the latest incident, police said White was at The Oaks center in Thousand Oaks when he met the 18-year-old woman and her friend. The woman and White wandered around the mall by themselves and ended up inside a Robinson's-May department store.

When the woman stepped into a dressing room to try on clothes, White followed and sexually assaulted her, Sheriff's Sgt. Robert Sparks said.

A woman in an adjoining dressing room called to the victim to see if she was OK, Sparks said. Sparks did not know if White was still in the room at the time.

Coming out of the dressing room, the victim found her friend and then left the mall to look for her mother, who was due to pick up the young women from their shopping trip. The teenager told her mother about the attack and the mother called police about 2:45 p.m.

Sparks said the alleged victim knew only White's first name, but based on that and a description, officers found him inside the mall with friends about 4:30 p.m.

The manager of a furniture store in the mall, who saw the handcuffed man being led away, said, "Now I wonder, where was the security that could have stopped this from happening?"

Representatives for Robinson's-May declined to comment.

Becky Bresson, a spokeswoman for the mall, said: "We try to keep very, very tight security for our shoppers as well as our merchants. But no matter how good your security is, you are in a human environment. Everyone needs to be very cautious, very careful."

Outside the Robinson's-May store, customers expressed shock and disbelief on hearing about the reported attack.

Sara Gutierrez, 18, of Thousand Oaks said she thought the department store should alert female customers to be on guard as they go into dressing rooms. "I thought this was supposed to be a safe place to live."

"That's so scary," shopper Carol Jennings of Westlake Village said. "It's one thing if it happened in the parking lot at 11 p.m. after she had seen a movie. But in the fitting room, I definitely wouldn't think that could happen."

Times staff writer Timothy Hughes and correspondent Katie Cooper contributed to this report.

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