2 charges dismissed in gang rape case

Deepa Bharath

A judge on Thursday dismissed significant charges against two Inland

Valley teenagers accused of raping an unconscious girl, ruling out

the possibility of life sentences for them, if convicted.

Judge Francisco Briseno threw out infliction of great bodily

injury and use of a deadly weapon charges -- both enhancements --

against 18-year-old Greg Haidl, son of Orange County Assistant

Sheriff Don Haidl, and Kyle Nachreiner, 19.

Greg Haidl, Nachreiner and Keith Spann are accused of assaulting

the then-16-year-old girl at Don Haidl's Corona del Mar home. Greg

Haidl's father was not home at the time. The teens, then students of

Rancho Cucamonga High School, allegedly penetrated the girl with a

pool cue.

Thursday's decision means that Greg Haidl and Nachreiner will now

face up to 55 years and four months in prison as opposed to 70 years

to life, officials said.

A different judge, during a hearing earlier this year, had

dismissed similar enhancements against 19-year-old Spann.

Judge Briseno, who took more than three weeks to rule on the

matter and watched a 20-minute video of the alleged rape, said in a

written ruling that there is "insufficient evidence of any

significant or substantial physical injury."

But the judge also remarked that the defendants were "engaged in

alleged acts of sexual abuse and sexual degradation" of the victim

and acted with "complete disregard for the welfare of another person

who is obviously unconscious."

Still, all that does not offer evidence that the defendants

"intended to use the pool cue as a deadly weapon," the judge said.

The ruling shows that "the judge felt this was not a violent gang

rape," said Joseph Cavallo, lead attorney for Greg Haidl's defense

team.

"The prosecution has clearly overcharged the defendants in this

case," he said. "The district attorney's office is concerned only

about the number of years, not the pursuit of justice. This decision

has rendered a devastating blow to the prosecution's case."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Susan Schroeder said that the ruling does

nothing more than reduce the number of years in prison the defendants

face, if convicted.

"It does not change the basic charges, and it doesn't change the

crime itself," she said. "The judge still says in his ruling that the

defendants had no regard for the victim's welfare."

Judge Briseno also denied the defense's petition to take the case

back to juvenile court, "validating that this is adult, felonious

conduct," Schroeder said.

"We intend to take this case to trial and prove the charges," she

said.

The defense has argued that the incident was nothing but

consensual sex between four teenagers.

"This was all part of a weekend-long sexcapade by [the victim],"

Cavallo said.

He said the Haidl family is "overjoyed by the decision."

"But we're also maintaining cautious optimism because this case

isn't over," Cavallo said.

The case remains an "extremely serious case" with dire

consequences for the defendants, said John Barnett, defense attorney

for Nachreiner.

"This judge's decision does rule out life sentences, which is a

significant reduction," he said. "But I don't believe it diminishes

the charges in any way."

The case is expected to go to a jury trial in March.

Greg Haidl's attorneys have filed several motions to dismiss the

case based on prosecutorial misconduct. They have filed another

motion asking that the court not accept the videotape of the incident

as evidence because they say it was stolen from the defendants.

The judge is expected to hear arguments on those motions on Monday

at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.

* DEEPA BHARATH covers public safety and courts. She may be

reached at (949) 574-4226 or by e-mail at deepa.bharath@latimes.com.

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