Six prospective Fresno City College football players have been questioned by police regarding the alleged rape of an 11-year-old runaway by up to 10 men, two of whom were arrested earlier.
The players, who reported to the Fresno police station voluntarily with their coach, were released after five hours of interrogation Sunday night and submission of physical samples, Police Chief Jerry Dyer said Monday. The samples -- which typically include fingerprints, hair and saliva -- will be compared with evidence collected at the scene.
Dyer declined to clarify whether the six were among the "as many as 10" men allegedly involved.
"We don't know that yet or we're not revealing it to the public," Dyer told reporters. "We're looking at a number of potential individuals.... Two are in custody, but I can't get into details of whether the six are suspects."
The men are "potential witnesses, potential persons of interest," Dyer said. "It's too early to tell."
Two suspects, Mackey Davis, 20, and Eddie Scott, 19, were arrested Saturday night and will be arraigned today on charges of one count each of molestation of a child under age 14 and oral copulation with a victim under 18, Dyer said.
Police are also seeking a second runaway, identified as 15-year-old Jamie Gonzalez, who was not assaulted but may have been with the victim before the alleged attack.
Gonzalez and the victim ran away from a Fresno group home midday Friday. Gonzalez appeared to have known or socialized with some of the suspects, Dyer said.
Police were called about 9 p.m. Saturday after the girl fled the apartment. A couple also flagged down a patrol car to help the victim. The girl suffered minor physical injuries and emotional trauma, Dyer said. He said evidence collected at the scene corroborates her account.
Most of the suspects are from out of state, Dyer said. Junior college football powerhouses Fresno City and Reedley College typically draw players from states whose two-year colleges do not offer football.
The apartment had been arranged for the prospective team members by Coach Tony Caviglia, Dyer said. Football practice at Fresno City College starts in August. College spokeswoman Cris Monahan-Bremer said she couldn't verify the report of the apartment being for the students.
The players arrived at the station with Caviglia after Dyer said he left word and his cellphone number with Fresno City College President Ned Doffoney.
Caviglia asked Michael Idiart, a criminal defense attorney whose son he had coached two years earlier, to advise the players as a group of their rights and the legal process, Idiart said.
Idiart, who provided the counsel for free, said he believed there were seven players -- one more than police said were interviewed -- present.
The men were nervous and wanted to know their rights.
"The ones voicing anything said they were innocent and wondered, 'Are we going to be crucified?' " Idiart said.
If they didn't do anything wrong -- and hadn't touched the girl -- they should provide statements to police, Idiart said he told them. If they had done "something to be concerned with, if they touched her, even if it was consensual, or if they had done something to abet or aid [the assault], they might want to exercise their 5th Amendment privilege" to avoid self-incrimination, he advised.
It's no defense to argue the victim appeared older if she's under 14, even in consensual contact, he told them.
The men said there wasn't a party Saturday night, but some were going back and forth between a few apartments, as usual.
One or two players said they might have seen the girl come out of the bedroom or bathroom at some point, Idiart said.
The victim appeared to be older than 11, the players told Idiart. "They said she was tall and had some development.... They all said she 'looked like she was 18 or 19 to me.' Whether that's true or not, I don't know. When I think of 11, I think of a girl jumping rope and playing jacks. But apparently she was more mature than that."
Chief Dyer declined to discuss the mental state of the victim beforehand or whether she may have consented initially to physical contact. "We know that 11-year-olds don't always make good decisions," Dyer said.