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Judge Frees 5 Aliens Rounded Up in Dragnet

Times Staff Writer

A San Diego Municipal judge on Thursday dismissed criminal charges against five illegal aliens from Mexico who were arrested two months ago during a massive dragnet directed at Latinos after the alleged rape of a teen-age girl from suburban Poway.

The ruling is the latest chapter in a case that began April 24 when a 15-year-old girl said she was forced off her horse behind a Poway market by a group of eight men and a woman and then raped by one of the men. The teen-ager described her assailant as a small man in his 20s with dark hair and dark eyes.

Based on that description, 12 U.S. Border Patrol agents and 27 deputies from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department launched a large-scale sweep, targeting migrant farm workers and other Latinos working in the semi-rural northern San Diego County area.

More than 85 suspects were detained and questioned during the dragnet, which critics condemned as a discriminatory roundup. They also charged that the sweep--which included the use of some SWAT officers--was prompted because the girl’s parents are law enforcement officers.

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Judge Peter Riddle’s ruling Thursday came after prosecutors announced that the victim’s family had developed “information favorable to the defendants.”

“It is our belief that we are not in a position to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Przytulski said.

Przytulski added that the decision to drop the rape charges was made with the complete concurrence of the Sheriff’s Department and the parents of the teen-ager, who is pregnant.

Riddle then ordered the release of the four men and one woman, who have been held since late April in the San Diego County Jail in lieu of bail ranging from $20,000 to $75,000. Charges against a sixth defendant, a minor, also were dismissed Thursday by a Juvenile Court judge.


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