MARTINEZ (KCBS/KPIX 5) - Contra Costa County jurors have convicted two more men for the October 2009 gang rape of a 16-year-old girl outside Richmond High School’s homecoming dance in an attack that shocked the Bay Area and garnered national attention.
Marcelles Peter, 20, of Pinole, and Jose Montano, 22, of Richmond, were each convicted of rape in concert, oral copulation in concert and sexual penetration with a foreign object in concert, along with special allegations of inflicting great bodily injury on the victim.
Neither defendant showed visible emotion as their respective verdicts were read in a packed courtroom in Martinez on Thursday.
Peter and Montano were prosecuted together in a rare dual trial before Superior Court Judge Barbara Zuniga with two separate juries, one for each of the defendants. Most of the testimony – from 30 witnesses over the course of the six-week trial – was given with both juries present, but closing arguments and other parts of the trial were heard separately.
The jury for Peter deliberated for seven hours and Montano’s jury took about 11 hours to reach a verdict; the two men could each face life in prison when they are sentenced at a later date.
Peter and Montano were among six men accused of raping the victim over a two-hour period in a dark school courtyard while as many as 20 people watched. The sophomore girl was later found partially nude and unconscious under a picnic table with severe injuries including head wounds, burns and hypothermia, according to authorities.
“My head really hurt, and I saw five of everybody staring at me,” the victim testified last month about waking up in the hospital after the assault. “I felt very nauseous, as if someone had taken out my insides and stabbed them and put them back in.”
In the nearly four years since the assault, the victim said she suffers from physical injuries, has migraine headaches regularly and has trouble learning.
Of the six men charged in the case, two are already serving prison sentences after convictions stemming from plea bargains, while two others are still awaiting trial on lesser charges.
Legal Analyst and San Jose-based attorney Steven Clark said he was not surprised by the verdicts in the dual trial, and indicated it will likely affect the remaining two defendants awaiting trial.
“Once the DA [district attorney] was able to show that these two were at a minimum present at the scene through witness statements and DNA evidence, the law says that if they aided and abetted in any way; the brutal rape of this young girl that they could be found just as liable as anyone else,” Clark said.
For the two remaining suspects, “if there’s an opportunity for a plea agreement, they’re going to want to carefully review that. When you think of the 16-year-old girl testifying as to what happened to her and all the other evidence, it’s not a case with a lot of jury appeal frankly, so if there’s an opportunity for settlement, you may see that happen,” explained Clark.
He also called it a bellwether case across the United States because it has national implications.
“What you had here was multiple people inflicting a sexual assault on a minor, many people watching it and some participating to one degree or another. Generally the law says you do not have to prevent a crime or report a crime, but that law is changing and now there are mandatory reporting statutes, which say that certain people have to report crimes. You see that in the education field and in other places,” he noted. “I think the jury was probably horrified that so many people were watching this and no one was calling the police.”
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