Discrepancies Emerge in Rape Allegations
Wavering under a barrage of sharp questions, a former Redondo Union High School student testified this week that she gave police officers false information when she said she was repeatedly raped by the school’s former ROTC director, but she insisted that they had sex five times while she was a minor.
Over three days of testimony, the former cadet recanted several statements she made earlier to police that ultimately led to sexual molestation charges against retired Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Allen Roth, 65.
However, the alleged victim, now 18, denied that she gave the false statements purposely, contending that she believed she was telling the truth at the time.
“I did have sex with him but . . . it wasn’t the way I said it to (police),” the former cadet testified during the jury trial this week in Torrance. “A rape is when a person is doing something to you, not necessarily intercourse, kissing or something . . . , that’s against your will.”
The woman’s conflicting statements, prompted by questioning from defense attorney Tony Capozzola, included testimony that she guessed at the dates of the alleged sexual acts at an earlier court hearing.
Previously, the teen-ager testified that she and Roth had sexual relations on several occasions during her years in the school’s ROTC program, beginning from the time she was 15. Three of those alleged incidents, she said, occurred in the ROTC offices, and another took place at Roth’s home in Torrance.
But under questioning by Capozzola, the girl admitted that she and Roth had sexual intercourse only once and that the other encounters involved oral sex.
In one case, Capozzola noted, the teen-ager changed the alleged date of the first sexual incident--and even some explicit details of their encounter--several times before settling on the date June 22, 1988. He said she also made a calendar entry about their relationship on June 31--a date that did not exist. Deputy Dist. Atty. Ron Geltz said the preprinted calendar included the mistaken date and does not indicate that the former student was lying.
“Isn’t it true you are making up dates and incidents in order to proceed with a $10-million lawsuit against the school district?” Capozzola asked the girl.
“No,” she responded.
Capozzola, arguing that inconsistencies in the teen-ager’s testimony proved that she had fabricated the story of sexual relations with the defendant, could not persuade Torrance Superior Court Judge Francis J. Hourigan to dismiss the charges. The judge ruled that the discrepancies would be considered as evidence by the jury during deliberations.
Throughout blunt cross-examination, Capozzola tried to portray the teen-ager as a vengeful former student of Roth’s who decided to level the charges against him after their once-cordial relationship fell apart.
The defense attorney also attacked the credibility of Redondo Police Detective Paul Hellinga, the chief investigator on the case, for failure to follow proper police procedures after secretly recording a telephone conversation between Roth and the student.
Hellinga admitted that he mixed up a copy of the tape with the original recording and failed to place the original tape immediately in an evidence file. Hellinga also testified that he destroyed the notes of his first interview with the alleged victim and could not remember any specific details from the two-hour interview.
Roth was arrested Dec. 5, one day after the teen-ager told the school principal and Redondo Beach police that she had been molested several times by the ROTC director. The retired Marine Corps master gunnery sergeant, who spent six years in the ROTC program, has been placed on an unpaid leave of absence.
Roth is charged with four counts of oral copulation with a minor and one count of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. If convicted, he faces more than five years in prison.
In addition to challenging the teen-ager’s recollection of events, Capozzola also tried to undermine her claim of sexual relations with Roth by questioning how their friendship could have survived such an abnormal series of liaisons.
“Weren’t you afraid of him?” Capozzola asked, referring to the moments after the first alleged sexual encounter on June 22, 1988, at the school.
“Yes, I was,” the girl answered.
“And you were rather traumatized weren’t you, over this event?” Capozzola continued.
“Yes,” she said.
“Yet, you asked the man who just did this to you to take you home. Is that correct?”
“Yes,” she said.