Two men were found guilty Thursday in the gang rape of a teenage girl outside a Richmond High School homecoming dance, a spokeswoman for the Contra Costa County district attorney said.
The October 2009 incident attracted national headlines. Several assailants raped, beat and robbed a 16-year-old girl for more than two hours while at least 20 men and boys watched, authorities said.
Jose Montano, 22, of Richmond and Marcelles Peter, 20, of Pinole were convicted by separate juries of gang rape, oral copulation and sexual penetration with a foreign object. Each man could face 33 years to life in prison when sentenced.
A juror in Montano's case told the San Francisco Chronicle that he "really didn't want to believe that [Montano] was guilty" but that the evidence proved otherwise. The 59-year-old man, who asked not to be identified, said jurors had struggled with occasionally conflicting testimony from participants who were drunk or on drugs during the attack.
The victim -– identified at trial only as Jane Doe -- had left the dance early and began drinking with a group of men and boys before they attacked her. Officers found her slung over a picnic table support beam, mostly nude and suffering from head trauma, burns and hypothermia, Deputy Dist. Atty. John Cope said at trial. Her blood-alcohol level was a near-fatal 0.35.
Police were notified after a woman reported that her brother-in-law had said that while he was near the campus some boys had told him there was a girl in the darkened courtyard with whom he could have sex.
Much of the evidence was presented before the juries simultaneously in the Martinez courtroom of Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Barbara Zuniga. The panels heard closing arguments and deliberated separately.
Peter’s jury returned a verdict Tuesday and Montano’s on Wednesday, but the verdicts were not read in the courtroom until Thursday.
Peter’s attorney, Gordon Brown, had maintained that his client was a witness but had not participated in the sexual assault. However, Cope told the jury that Peter’s DNA was found in a discarded condom. Also introduced at trial was a police interrogation video in which Peter said he touched the victim’s private area before Montano raped her.
Montano and Peter were the first to stand trial of the six men jailed in connection with the assault.
Two other men, Manuel Ortega, 22, and Ari Morales, 19, are serving 32-year and 27-year prison terms for their roles in the rape after reaching plea deals with prosecutors. Two other defendants are awaiting trial on lesser sexual-assault charges. Additional DNA found at the scene has not been matched to suspects.
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