Richmond Gang Rape Suspects Outfitted in Bulletproof Vests

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Prison lockdown could soon be lifted.

     Four teenagers charged in connection with the alleged gang rape of  a 15-year-old girl outside Richmond High School's homecoming dance on  Saturday night were arraigned in Contra Costa County Superior Court in  Richmond this morning.

          The four defendants are San Pablo residents Cody Ray Smith, 15,  and Ari Abdallah Morales, 16; Pinole resident Marcelles James Peter, 17; and  Richmond resident Manuel Ortega, 19.
         
    The three juveniles, who have been charged as adults in the case,  were brought into court first, each wearing a bulletproof vest.
         
    They have each been charged with rape by a foreign object while  acting in concert. Morales has also been charged with robbery, according to  the criminal complaint.
         
    Ortega has been charged with forcible rape while acting in  concert, assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, and robbery.
         
     All four also face enhancements that make them eligible for life  in prison.
         
    Smith, who just turned 15 earlier this month, pleaded not guilty.  He is being represented by Rob Gendreau, an attorney with the Alternate  Defender's Office in Martinez.
         
    Ernesto Castillo, an Oakland-based defense attorney, has been  hired to represent Morales. He told the judge that he needed to delay  entering a plea for Morales for a week.
         
    Peter and Ortega were both referred to the public defender's office for representation and did not enter pleas.
         
    The four are scheduled to return to court Nov. 5 and are being held without bail.

    Also Thursday, the story of the two people who did something to stop the crime became public.

    Raul Rubio was with his friends in the neighborhood when he said some guys passed by, talking about what was happening to a 15-year-old girl over at the school. Police say some of the attackers joined in on the assault after word spread about what was going on but when Rubio heard about it, he did the right thing -- he ran for help.

    "I feel like, that could have been my sister, cousin." Rubio said. "I'll probably have daughters later in life. I wouldn't want something like that to happen to anybody who I know."

    Margarita Vargas, 18, was at home watching TV when Rubio, her boyfriend, ran inside and told her to call 911.

    Vargas said she knew she had to help.

    "I was scared." Vargas said. "I was like 'oh my God, how could anybody do this to her?' I put myself in her position and I would not like anybody to do that to me or do that to my sisters or my friends anybody."

    Vargas said she did not hesitate to call 911 because it was the right thing to do.

    "My conscience wouldn't be comfortable knowing that I'm going to let this happen to somebody." Vargas said. "I'm going to let her just die out there, you know. So I had to call for help."     

    In court Thursday, prosecutors were still reviewing the legal case against a fifth suspect, 21-year-old Richmond resident Salvador Rodriguez, but have until Friday to file charges against him, Deputy District Attorney Dara Cashman  said. She said Richmond police have been working around the clock to identify  and arrest the remaining suspects.
       
    Police said earlier this week that they believe between seven and  10 people were involved in robbing, beating and sexually assaulting the victim, a Richmond High School student, in front of as many as a dozen  onlookers.
         
    Cashman said she decided to charge the juveniles as adults in this case because of the "extremely callous and brutal" nature of the crime.
         
    While she has prosecuted numerous gang rape cases, she said this one seemed particularly cold.
         
    She also said her office has received "expressions of outrage from around the country," mostly sent by email, about the case.
         
    Castillo said his client, Morales, is a young kid who has no prior criminal record.

    "This is a horrible tragedy and it's hard to understand how this could happen on an American (high school) campus," Castillo said. But, he added, he had just received the information about the case today and didn't  know if Morales was even present for the rape or what role, if any, he played  in it.
         
    Peter's cousin and aunt said Peters is innocent.
         
    "He heard a noise, didn't know what was going on, and just walked by," Peter's cousin, who declined to give his name, said. "He didn't see  anything."
         
    According to the cousin, Peter turned himself in after Richmond police raided the home where he lives with his grandmother.
         
    "He's innocent, so what's the point of hiding and running," the cousin said.
         
    Monica Peter, Peter's aunt, said her nephew likes to play soccer and is good at math.
         
    "He's a very good kid. Very respectable. Good manners," she said.
         
    Detectives believe the attack began around 9:30 p.m., after a  lassmate beckoned the victim to a secluded area of the campus where she began drinking with them. The assault lasted more than two hours, Richmond  police Lt. Mark Gagan said.
         
    The victim was in critical condition when police found her and had  to be airlifted to the hospital, police said. She was released from the hospital Wednesday night, Cashman said.
         
    Students, teachers and community leaders held a rally at the high  school Wednesday afternoon to speak out against the assault.
         
    Anyone who wants to make a financial contribution to help the victim and her family can send a check to Richmond High School, located at 1250 23rd St., Richmond, 94804-1011. Checks can made out to the Richmond High  School Student Fund, sexual assault victim.
         
    Richmond police are offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in the attack, Gagan said.
         
     

    Bay City News contributed to this report.