Manuel Ortega, 22 whom has been described as a ringleader in the alleged rape of a sixteen year old girl outside of a homecoming dance was questioned this past Thursday in court. Ortega told jurors at the trial of the other men he had seen sexually assault the girl in the courtyard. He offered a picture of the chaotic and horrifying scene and managed to offer a key piece when he stated he saw defendant Jose Montano, 22 rape the intoxicated girl on October 24, 2009.
The 16-year-old girl was beaten and raped for over two hours outside of her Richmond High School homecoming dance and was hospitalized for several days with head trauma and other injuries.
Ortega admitted to the Contra Costa County jury that he had tried to engage in a sexual act with the girl whom the court has referred to as “Jane Doe”. Ortega had been convicted of rape, but on Thursday he claimed he had not raped her. Both Prosecutor John Cope and defense attorney Jane Elliot attempted to have a better understanding of what occurred that night by asking Ortega to explain what exactly he had seen Montano do outside the school dance. Ortega responded by saying he was not gay.
Ortega claimed he was “pretty drunk” during the incident in addition to testifying that he did not remember seeing the second man in the courtyard the night of the dance, Marcelles Peter, 22 of Pinole. Cope questioned Ortega by asking him how it can be possible for some of his statements that he had made to police in 2009 conflicted with his trial testimony. He replied to the prosecutor by saying “I just told you.” Both Cope and defense attorney mentioned to the jurors to be cautious of the witnesses of the alleged gang rape since many of the witnesses have good reasons to lie.
Ortega claimed the assault began after “Jane Doe” was invited to the courtyard by a boy who knew her began drinking from a bottle of brandy. According to Ortega “Jane Doe” cracked the bottle open and started chugging it. Ortega then said he saw the group of men rape the girl, punch and kick her, drag her around and urinat on her.
Another witness, Salvador Rodriguez told jurors that he had tried to cover the naked body with his shirt. Rodriguez who is not facing any charges explained how Montano had ripped off the girl’s panty hose and punched her. Rodriguez claimed he was trying to stop her from being hurt, raped or from possibly dying. So far prosecutors have said none of the young men present during the attack called 911. It is difficult to believe any of the men were attempting to stop the attack from what has been presented in court.
Both Montano and Peter have been charged with forcible rape, rape by a foreign object and forced oral copulation, with each count alleging that the men acted in concert with others. They will be tried in front of two juries that will hear some of the evidence together and some separately.
Ortega and Ari Morales had earlier agreed to plea bargains that had sent them to prison for 32 and 27 years. The trial will continue Monday morning.