Suspects in gang rape of California teenager plead not guilty


RICHMOND, Calif. — Six people charged with gang raping a
16-year-old girl outside Richmond High School’s homecoming dance Oct. 24
pleaded not guilty in a packed courtroom Tuesday.

The suspects, including three juveniles charged as adults,
remain jailed on high or no bail and are scheduled to return to court Jan. 21
to set a preliminary hearing date.

Participating in the two-hour sexual assault in a dark
courtyard on campus, authorities say, were Cody Ray Smith, 15, of San Pablo;
Ari Morales, 16, of San Pablo; Marcelles Peter, 17, of Pinole; Jose Carlos
Montano, 18, of Richmond; Manuel Ortega, 19, of Richmond; and Elvis Josue
Torrentes, 21, of Richmond.

Several other people witnessed the rape but made no effort
to call police or help the victim, police say. A young Richmond woman, at home
a few blocks away from campus, finally reported the attack when her boyfriend
relayed what he had heard from passers-by.

All the defendants except Torrentes face charges that call
for life in prison because of a special allegation that they physically
participated in the rape. Torrentes’ charges call for up to 26 years in prison.

Richmond police have said they believe all the main
participants are in custody; friends and family members of several of the
suspects have told Bay Area News Group that their loved one has been wrongly

“I just don’t think all of them did that,” said
Shyan Mason, a 23-year-old Hercules resident and 2005 Richmond High School
graduate who was among Tuesday’s court spectators. She said she doesn’t know
any of the defendants personally. “I can’t believe that happened at
Richmond High School — it’s a good school.”

The defendants waived their right to have a preliminary
hearing within 10 or 60 days. Senior deputy district attorney Dara Cashman said
it likely will be several months before a preliminary hearing, given the large
amount of evidence that police are offering in the case.

Last month, Cashman gave each defense attorney 685 pages of
documents and 28 DVDs containing evidence. She said the complicated nature of
the case makes the possibility of bringing it to a grand jury unlikely.

Cashman said whether the victim in the case would testify at
the preliminary hearing is a “decision that would happen down the

The prosecution has the option to use hearsay testimony in
place of the victim’s at a preliminary hearing under California’s Proposition
115, also known as the Crime Victims Justice Reform Act, passed by state voters
in 1990.

Via McClatchy-Tribune News Service.