MARTINEZ, Calif. —
A man who was convicted in connection with the brutal gang rape of a 16-year-old girl outside of a Richmond High School homecoming dance took the witness stand Thursday in the trial against two of his alleged co-conspirators.
Ari Morales, 19, of San Pablo, testified in a Martinez courtroom Thursday about the events of the night of Oct. 24, 2009, when he and several others took part in the gang rape and beating. The testimony is part of the trial against 20-year-old Marcelles Peter and 22-year-old Jose Montano, who are both charged with rape, rape with a foreign object and forced oral copulation.
Richmond man Manuel Ortega, 22, who has been described as the ringleader of the attack, is now serving a 32-year prison sentence while Morales has begun a 27-year sentence. Both men received the sentences in exchange for plea deals with the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office. As part of the bargains, both agreed to testify in the current trial.
Dressed in a yellow jail jumpsuit, Morales sometimes contradicted himself on the stand and often said he couldn’t remember details of the night when questioned by both Deputy District Attorney John Cope and defense attorneys for Montano and Peter.
At one point, Morales testified that Montano was “trying to” have sex with the victim, while at other times he said he saw the rape occur.
Despite his sometimes inconsistent testimony, Morales was clear in his depiction of Montano as an aggressor in the attack against the highly intoxicated victim, referred to in court as Jane Doe, in a darkened courtyard on the Richmond High School campus.
He testified that Montano pulled a condom out of his pocket, climbed on top of Doe as she lay on the ground unconscious and appeared to have intercourse with her.
At the same time, Ortega attempted to force the girl into oral copulation, Morales testified.
When those attempts were unsuccessful, Morales recalled, “Ortega starts to torture this girl,” punching her in the face repeatedly.
Meanwhile, Morales and about 20 other young men stood in a circle, watching the assault.
After apparently having sex with the girl, Montano “got up and threw the condom away,” Morales testified.
Morales testified that after Ortega and Montano, he also took a turn in the assault, inserting the antenna of a walkie-talkie radio into the victim’s vagina and stealing a ring off of her finger while she was unconscious.
However, while on the stand today, he did not implicate Peter, a former friend and neighbor. He testified that he only remembered seeing Peter standing and watching the assaults but did not see or hear him participate.
The trial against Montano and Peter is set to continue on Monday afternoon. Two other defendants, Elvis Torrentes and John Crane Jr., are still awaiting trial.