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Rape trial begins for teen

The Anaheim boy, 17, allegedly confronted four boys in 2004. Tried as an adult, he could face life in prison.

August 03, 2007|Christine Hanley | Times Staff Writer

The youngest defendant in Orange County to be charged as an adult in a rape case sat solemnly in court as his trial opened Thursday, his shoulders slumped and head cast down as a prosecutor accused him of preying on four 12-year-old boys in his Anaheim neighborhood.

Jose Ignacio Avina, 17, is three years older than when he allegedly confronted his victims in 2004 as they walked to or from school. He will face a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of 11 felonies including sodomizing two of the boys, robbing three of them and threatening the lives of three of them.

During opening statements, Deputy Dist. Atty. Kal Kaliban warned jurors that the testimony "is going to be upsetting." He told them that the accounts given by the boys would be corroborated by circumstantial and forensic evidence including a DNA sample.

County Deputy Public Defender Doloris Yost spoke for about a minute, conceding that the facts and events of the case "are tragic, very tragic," but asked jurors to keep open minds until closing arguments, when she promised to deliver her own analysis of the case.

Through a translator, one of the alleged victims testified Thursday that he was approached by Avina on Nov. 15, 2004, as he walked home from school. The boy, now 15, speaks English but said he felt more comfortable testifying in his native Spanish.

He said Avina, riding a bicycle and threatening him with a screwdriver, told him to get on the bike. "I thought he was going to poke me in the stomach. I thought he was going to stab me," he said.

He said he was then forced to go with Avina to the rooftop of a nearby apartment building where Avina, still holding the screwdriver, told him to drop his pants. He said he agreed because Avina "said he was going to kill me."

Under cross-examination, the boy acknowledged that during interviews with police he described the weapon in question as a tornillo, Spanish for "screw," not "screwdriver."

The trial is expected to last about two weeks.

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