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Lesser Charges Dropped for 2nd O.C. Rape Trial

August 07, 2004|H.G. Reza | Times Staff Writer

Orange County prosecutors on Friday dropped lesser charges against three young men whose first trial on charges of gang-raping a teenage girl ended with a hung jury -- a move they hope will win over a second set of jurors by reducing potential prison terms.

Gregory Haidl, 18, son of Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl, and Kyle Joseph Nachreiner and Keith James Spann, both 19, are accused of assaulting an unconscious 16-year-old girl in Don Haidl's Corona del Mar home in July 2002. The alleged rape was videotaped by Gregory Haidl.

Their trial in June ended after jurors were unable to agree on verdicts, though the jury leaned against conviction on most of the 24 counts. Each defendant faced up to 55 years in prison.

Prosecutors filed charges Friday that include only the most serious: nine counts of unlawful oral copulation, rape and rape with a foreign object. District attorney spokeswoman Susan Kang Schroeder said convictions could result in a sentence of probation or up to 23 years in prison.

Prosecutors said they reduced the number of counts for the second trial to make it easier for jurors to convict. Prosecutors' interviews with jurors from the first trial showed that some were concerned about the lengthy prison sentences that would be imposed on the defendants if convicted.

Superior Court Judge Francisco Briseno set the new trial for Oct. 18, but defense attorneys said a more realistic date is probably January, because all three defense lawyers have scheduling conflicts.

The three defendants will be tried together again.

John D. Barnett, who represents Nachreiner, said he expects a second jury will acquit the defendants or again fail to agree on all counts.

"It will be very difficult to get 12 people to agree on this case. It's too emotional," Barnett said.

Peter Morreale, Spann's attorney, said the defense team will not change strategy for the second trial. The lawyers will again question the alleged victim aggressively about her sexual history and lifestyle.

In a sign of the importance the district attorney is putting on getting a conviction in the second trial, Chief Assistant Dist. Atty. Chuck Middleton was assigned to help Deputy Dist. Atty. Dan Hess. Middleton is the No. 2 prosecutor in the office and has extensive trial experience.

Briseno will hold a hearing Tuesday to hear defense motions to dismiss the charges and a prosecution motion to review Haidl's bail status. Like his co-defendants, Haidl is free on $100,000 bail.

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