Three friends “danced for joy” as they took turns sexually assaulting an unconscious 16-year-old girl during a Fourth of July party, a prosecutor told jurors Monday on the opening day of a much-publicized trial involving the son of a high-ranking Orange County sheriff’s official.
Defense attorneys countered that the girl actually orchestrated the videotaped encounter out of her desire to become a porn star, a longing they said was fueled by a growing subculture of teenagers with an appetite for group sex.
The rape trial opened Monday after months of drama: court fights over evidence, allegations that the video had been stolen and then doctored, and arguments over presenting the victim’s sexual history. Even how the jury was to be selected was a test of wills.
To some, the case morphed into a battle between the county prosecutor and a powerful, wealthy law enforcement official. A colleague of Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl had been investigated for possibly interfering in the case, and a defense attorney had accused the district attorney of being overzealous.
In opening statements, the defense portrayed the girl as a sex fiend whose life had spun out of control, and the prosecutor told jurors that the videotape will reveal the youths as arrogant, selfish assailants. But both sides characterized the incident, in Haidl’s Corona del Mar home two years ago, as the culmination of a series of bad choices by the girl.
Both sides agree that on the day before the party, the girl went to Haidl’s house, where she smoked marijuana, drank heavily and had sex with at least two young men. The next day, she returned alone.
Each juror was handed a binder with 48 color photos from the videotape. The photos show the defendants -- Gregory Scott Haidl, 18; Kyle Joseph Nachreiner, 19; and Keith James Spann, 19 -- alternately having sex with the girl and sodomizing her with a Snapple bottle, an empty fruit can and a lighted cigarette.
Each defendant faces 24 rape and sexual assault charges and could get more than 55 years in prison if convicted on all counts. The girl is being referred to in court as Jane Doe to protect her identity.
At the beginning of the video, Deputy Dist. Atty. Dan Hess said, the girl has a beer in her hand and then -- after initially resisting -- gulps a drink she says tastes “like pine needles, like drinking a pine tree.” Within minutes she is shown “completely limp and unconscious,” the prosecutor said.
“She was so intoxicated that she couldn’t fight back, that she couldn’t say no,” Hess said. So the boys raped her, he added, “and they danced with joy.”
In the video, after the boys have sex with the apparently unconscious girl on a couch, they are shown moving her to a pool table. Spann affirms with a gesture that the girl has blacked out -- and the sexual antics continue, the prosecutor told jurors. Later, the boys mug for the camera, giggle and dance to the blaring rap music. Haidl slaps the girl’s stomach in time to the beat.
In the final photo, the girl -- still appearing unconscious -- is pictured after urinating on the pool table. Lawyers for the three suspects conceded that the events occurred. She pretended to be unconscious, the defense argued, because she knew that if the video were discovered, people would think poorly of her for allowing boys to treat her in such humiliating fashion.
Attorney John Barnett, representing Nachreiner, said jurors must view the tape in context with what he called the girl’s sexually free-form lifestyle, including having sex with his client 10 minutes after meeting him the night before, which the prosecution denied.