Gang rape victim’s letter tells attackers: ‘I forgive both of you’
Two men convicted last month in the gang rape of a teenage girl outside a Richmond High School homecoming dance were sentenced to lengthy prison terms by a Contra Costa County judge Thursday, a lead prosecutor on the case said.
The sentencing came after a victims’ advocate read emotional letters from the young woman and from her parents to the court, Deputy Dist. Atty. John Cope said.
The October 2009 incident attracted national headlines. Several assailants raped, beat and robbed a 16-year-old girl for more than two hours while at least 20 men and boys watched, authorities said.
In July, Jose Montano, 22, of Richmond and Marcelles Peter, 20, of Pinole were convicted by separate juries of gang rape, oral copulation and sexual penetration with a foreign object.
Judge Barbara Zuniga gave Montano the maximum sentence, 33 years to life. She gave Peter a shorter sentence, 29 years to life, because he was a minor at the time of the crime, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The victim had left the dance early and began drinking with a group of men and boys before they attacked her. Officers found her slung over a picnic table support beam, almost nude and suffering from head trauma, burns and hypothermia, Deputy Dist. Atty. John Cope said at trial. Her blood-alcohol level was a near-fatal 0.35.
“It’s beyond shocking that a human being can be dehumanized to the extent that Jane Doe was that night,” Zuniga said in addressing the defendants, according to the Contra Costa Times. “She stopped being a human being to you. She became a thing for you to torture and play with.”
Cope said that the victim’s letter, read prior to the sentencing, “clearly had a great impact.” It focused in part, he said, on how the victim missed out on many high school rites of passage.
“You both took a lot from me, more than you will ever know,” she wrote, the Chronicle reported. “But I just want to say to the both of you, I forgive both of you. I forgive both of you because I deserve to be at peace. But no matter how hard I try and wish I could, I’ll never forget, and there are parts of me that will never be healed.”
Friday, Cope praised the work of police, jurors and the judge.
“We believe this was a just sentence,” he said.
Montano and Peter were the first of the six men jailed in connection with the assault to stand trial.
Two other men, Manuel Ortega, 22, and Ari Morales, 19, are serving 32-year and 27-year prison terms for their roles in the rape after reaching plea deals with prosecutors. Two other defendants are awaiting trial on lesser sexual assault charges. Additional DNA found at the scene has not been matched to suspects.
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