By Malaika Fraley Contra Costa Times
MARTINEZ — A 22-year-old man convicted in the 2009 Richmond High School gang rape testified Thursday that he saw his former co-defendant Jose Montano on top of the 16-year-old victim for “like two seconds.”
“Two seconds, three, four, five — it wasn’t even a minute,” said Manuel Ortega, who’s serving a 32-year prison sentence at Mule Creek State Prison for the Oct. 24, 2009, attack in which a sophomore girl was beaten, raped and otherwise sexually abused for as much as 2½ hours in a dark campus courtyard after she left the school’s homecoming dance and drank a near-fatal amount of brandy.
Montano, 22, of Richmond, and 20-year-old Pinole resident Marcelles Peter are on trial on gang rape charges that call for a life prison sentence. Ortega is one of two former co-defendants who took a plea deal that requires him to testify at all future proceedings.
Ortega on Wednesday testified that Montano “raped” the girl. On Thursday, it was less clear what exactly he saw.
“He was on top of her for two seconds, and he just left,” Ortega said. He noted that he saw Montano go “up and down.”
“Did you see his pants down?” an attorney asked.
“I don’t know,” he replied.
The testimony is crucial to Montano’s defense, which is that he got on top of her but didn’t have sex with her or even unzip his pants.
In trial opening statements, prosecutor John Cope told the jury that there will be testimony that Montano’s DNA was found on a condom wrapper retrieved from the crime scene, and that he was seen running around saying, “Where’s that condom?” after raping the girl.
Ortega was a 19-year-old Point Richmond resident when he was arrested running away from the crime scene with the victim’s DNA on him. He had dropped out of Treasure Island Job Corps two years earlier and was scraping by panhandling and stealing things that he could sell, he said.
He said he would frequently hang out and drink in the Richmond High School courtyard; he didn’t know that there was a dance happening that night until after the fact.
Over his two days of testimony, he admitted to ripping off the victim’s clothes after she fell down drunk, trying to force her to give him oral sex, and hitting her and dragging her around the courtyard with Ari Morales, who also took a plea deal. He said he did not see Peter at the scene.
However, Ortega’s testimony was not without inconsistencies.
When asked how many people raped the girl, Ortega replied, “Just two, me and Jose.”
But then when asked immediately afterward whether he raped or had sex with the girl, Ortega said, “No.”
Ortega repeated that he was “very drunk” that night and that he wasn’t in “a right state of mind” when he gave his statements to police.
“I didn’t rape her,” Ortega said.
“So if you are forcing oral copulation within a minute of someone raping her, you don’t think you have anything to do with (the rape)?” Cope asked.
“No,” he replied.
Manuel Ortega Being Escorted Back To Jail After Testifying On June 11,2013.