Huntington Beach : Innocent Man’s Friend Sentenced in Rape Case
A Santa Fe Springs man who confessed his role in a gang rape in Huntington Beach for which his innocent friend spent three years in prison was sentenced to 116 days in jail and three years’ probation.
Ralph Perez Jr., 21, who was a juvenile at the time of the 1981 attack at Huntington Beach State Park, was sentenced Thursday to probation after Superior Judge Francisco P. Briseno gave him credit for 116 days already served in jail. Perez had pleaded guilty to being an accessory to the Aug. 14, 1981, crime.
David Navarro, 25, a member of the group who was found asleep on the beach near the site of the attack, was arrested, charged and convicted even though he insisted he had not taken part in the crime. His friends had fled the scene.
Last year, Navarro’s conviction was reversed by the 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana after a determination that an eyewitness identification of Navarro by the victim and her boyfriend was weak, and that there was not adequate corroborating evidence to convict him.
He was subsequently freed from jail to await a new trial. At that time, Navarro agreed to wear a wiretap on his body when he returned to visit his old Santa Fe Springs neighborhood. During one visit, the others who had been with him that night told him what really happened.
With the help of the tape recording, district attorney’s investigators were able to extract confessions from six men who admitted a role in the attack.
Five suspects remain to be sentenced. They are David Cadena, 22; Gregory Franco, 26; Anthony Ramirez, 26; Arthur Esquivel, 20, and Thomas Gomez, 24. Each faces a maximum of 18 years in prison.