SAN JOSE (BCN) – A Santa Clara County jury Thursday found that a pair of former De Anza College baseball players are not liable for the alleged gang rape of a 17-year-old girl at a house party in 2007.
The jury of six men and six women found that there was no negligence on the part of the defendants, Christopher Knopf and Kenneth Chadwick, and they will not have to pay damages to the victim, who was seeking $7.5 million in damages.
The verdict was read shortly before 9:30 a.m. Thursday, following four days of deliberation.
Afterward, Knopf embraced in a hug with his attorney, Jeff Nevin.
Outside the courthouse, Nevin told reporters it was an “absolute joy” and “relief” for everyone involved in the case.
“After four years, (Knopf) is now free,” Nevin said. “To say he’s happy is a tremendous understatement. He’s beyond happy.”
The civil trial came four years after the victim, who is now 21, claimed she was gang-raped by a group of baseball players at a party in San Jose on March 3, 2007.
Three young women, identified as Lauren Bryeans, Lauren Chief Elk and April Grolle, pushed their way into the room where the victim was allegedly being assaulted and took her to the hospital.
Afterward, both Chief Elk and Grolle publicly described finding the vomiting semi-conscious girl in a room surrounded by eight men with one allegedly between her legs.
Eight members of the team were suspended due to team policy violations after the incident came to light.
The case was being tried in civil court before Judge Aaron Persky.
Juror No. 10, Marc Ancheta, was one of a few members of the jury who dissented from the decision. He said he was disappointed with the verdict.
“Truly, justice wasn’t served,” Ancheta said. “We all knew a terrible thing happened. She’s a single mother and this is going to be very hard for her.”
When the victim emerged from the courthouse, she stopped to give Ancheta a hug, and he held her as she sobbed quietly on his shoulder.
Barbara Spector, her lead attorney, walked behind her and succinctly told reporters, “We’re very proud of our client. She’s a wonderful person.”
Jury forewoman Percenela Jones said the decision was not easily made. She said the jury dedicated two days alone to reading forensic reports and examining all the evidence.
“On a scale of one to 10, it was a 15. Very difficult,” Jones said. “The bottom line is, ultimately, it was the law we followed.”
Knopf and Chadwick claimed that the sex was consensual. The allegations against Knopf were negligence, battery, sexual battery, false imprisonment, invasion of privacy, conspiracy, unlawful intercourse, rape of an unconscious woman, rape of an intoxicated woman, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Another six men were also listed in the lawsuit when the trial began in late February, but they have all settled with the plaintiff or had the lawsuit dismissed.
In 2007, then-District Attorney Dolores Carr decided to not file criminal charges in the case, citing insufficient evidence, a decision that outraged some in the community.
Carr also asked the state attorney general’s office to investigate the case, and that office agreed that there was not enough evidence.
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