Defense lawyers: Alleged ‘gang rape’ in Morristown was ‘consensual’
Lawyers for two Morristown teens accused of gang-raping a 17-year-old girl in 2011 called the alleged victim’s story “nonsensical” and a “bunch of baloney,” asserting in court on Tuesday that her allegations were nothing more than regrets after a drunken evening of consensual sex.
They asked Superior Court Judge Michael Paul Wright to reject prosecutors’ request to try the boys–both 17 at the time of the incident–as adults.
But the boys’ own testimony was damning, contended Acting Assistant Prosecutor Samantha DeNegri. They testified that the girl was so sick from drinking that they had to give her a trash can to vomit in, that she repeatedly said “stop,” and that her body “wasn’t cooperating” with them as they had sex in the back of a vehicle.
“She asked for a ride home–not to be raped,” the prosecutor said.
The judge promised a swift decision–the defendants have been in custody for months–while acknowledging he intends to listen to audio recordings from five days of testimony.
Although burdens of proof are less stringent for a probable cause hearing, this one played out like a full-blown trial, with numerous–and sometimes heated–legal objections and sidebar conferences where lawyers asked the judge to allow or prohibit specific questions.
For the defendants, much is at stake: If they are tried and convicted as adults, they could face 20 years in jail. The maximum penalty as juveniles would be four years.
The alleged victim–who testified that she remembered little about the assault because she had passed out–appeared uncomfortable yet composed in her third day on the witness stand. She did not look at the defendants, who were handcuffed and wore blue prison jumpsuits.
These teens are not named here because all were juveniles at the time of the alleged rapes on Sept. 4, 2011. A third youth, Tyrec Phillips, 19, of Morristown, will be tried as an adult.
Defense lawyers Dean Maglione and Randy Davenport challenged the credibility of the young woman, who did not report the alleged attack to authorities for eight months.
That was because she was scared and “didn’t have support from anybody,” she testified. Asked about her parents, she told the court: “Their way of dealing with things is to pray. That helps. But it doesn’t help me fully.”
Dean Maglione said the girl had tried to portray herself with “angel wings,” but he wasn’t buying it. The girl acknowledged that she freely drank a green liqueur from a 20-oz water bottle offered by Tyrec Phillips; Randy Davenport cited graphic testimony by the defendants about the girl’s purported sexual advances, which allegedly unfolded after a gathering near the Lafayette Learning Center in Morristown.
A key piece of testimony involved the use of force; without such force, the defense lawyers argued, there can’t be any charges of aggravated sexual assault.
The girl testified that when she awoke to find one of the boys on top of her, she attempted to raise herself to see who it was, only to have her forearm knocked down.
Yet she never mentioned this in any of her prior statements to authorities, a glaring inconsistency, said the defense lawyers.
“Judge, this is a fabrication!” said Dean Maglione, who went on to describe the girl’s account as “nonsensical” and “a lot of baloney.”
“We have a situation which is consensual,” said Randy Davenport. “There is no indication in this record of any use of force.”
Samantha DeNegri, the assistant prosecutor, responded sternly. “They all said she said no, [yet] they continued. If someone says no and you continue having sex, you’re forcing them. She was passed out. It doesn’t take much force.”
The defense also tried to make much of the girl’s admission that a Morristown detective coached her to lie over the phone to one of the defendants that she had a sexually transmitted disease. It was during this monitored phone call, she said, that she was stunned to learn two others had raped her.
That same defendant who she phoned had advised her previously, via Facebook, to get a pregnancy test because he had had unprotected sex with her in the vehicle back in September, she testified.