The trial in the case of three men accused of raping an unconscious
girl in the home of an Orange County assistant sheriff has not even
begun, but a small army of witnesses was called Wednesday to testify
about the authenticity of the videotape that captured the alleged
Four witnesses were heard Wednesday afternoon, and another handful
are expected to testify in the coming days, all of whom had contact
with or watched the videotape that allegedly shows defendants Gregory
Haidl -- son of Asst. Sheriff Don Haidl -- Kyle Nachreiner and Keith
Spann raping the defendant and penetrating her with a pool cue,
cigarettes and a lighter.
Joseph Cavallo, who represents Gregory Haidl, filed the motion
"based upon evidence that the critical evidence being proffered by
the prosecution -- the videotape -- has been altered," along with
other claims of misconduct by the prosecution, according to Superior
Superior Court Judge Francisco Briseno said the attorneys needed
to do three things for the motions filed: establish a chain of
custody of the camcorder and videotape from the time it was found in
a Newport Beach rental house to its possession by the district
attorney's office; to authenticate the tape found with the tape
currently in possession by the prosecution, which will be shown to
the jury; and then entertain a motion to exclude the tape from
The camcorder, which contained the incriminating tape, exchanged
hands several times. From the hands of the two teenagers who found
it, it went to a trusted relative, who showed it to a neighbor in law
enforcement, who called authorities from the San Bernardino Sheriff's
Department, who handed over the investigation to the Newport Beach
Police Department, which investigated the crime on which the district
attorney filed charges on 24 felony counts.
All of those potential witnesses were in the Santa Ana courthouse
at noon and watched the prosecution's copy of the tape, which it
contends is the original tape taken from the camcorder, to see if
there were any differences in the form of alterations, deletions or
The Haidl defense team has statements from film expert Jerry Goffe
from Albuquerque, who said "artifacts" found on the videotape suggest
"some sort of manipulation and editing of the tape has taken place."
Cavallo has said that two of his experts have concluded that 17
minutes and 38 seconds of the tape were missing.
Lindsay Picou, who found the tape with her boyfriend, Ryan
Weedall, during the July 4 weekend in 2002, was called to the stand
first by the prosecution. Picou said she and her boyfriend found the
camcorder on July 7, 2002, in the bedroom of a rented beach house and
watched the tape, along with a number of other boys who were staying
there. Picou said the contents of the tape had "made her ill" and she
had recognized one of the participants as Nachreiner.
The crime allegedly happened on July 4, 2002. It was not made
clear how the camera got to Weedall's vacation rental home or how
Picou knew Nachreiner. Picou said she immediately took the camera to
turn over to the authorities.
"Because I saw something bad and I knew I had to turn it into the
police," Picou said.
She said she kept the camera in her car until going home to
Fontana on July 8, 2004, and then took it to her brother's house in
Alta Loma to show him. The Picous took it to next door neighbor David
E. Reaves, who works as a sergeant for the Pasadena Police
Department. He watched the tape and called the San Bernardino County
Sheriff's Department, she said.
The petite brunet was grilled in cross examination by Cavallo, who
asked her about every detail of the viewing: what buttons were
pushed, who watched it, where she kept it before handing it over to
the police, the names of those who were at the house, what she heard
on the tape, whether there were pauses in the footage, etc. She
repeatedly answered, "I don't know" or "I don't remember."
Picou admitted that she and Weedall lied to police about going to
the movies on Sunday night, and she disclosed a previous plan to keep
the names of the other boys out of the whole thing.
"When did you first tell the truth?" Nachreiner's defense
attorney, John D. Barnett, asked.
"Right now, today," Picou said.
Cavallo also asked her details about the content of the tape:
whether she viewed a scene with two people having sex on a bed,
whether they changed positions, if she saw the alleged victim on the
couch with the defendants and whether the girl had any clothes on.
The judge bristled at detailed mention of the tape and halted the
line of questioning, saying the hearing had a "limited scope," in
which questions were only to be asked about the handling of the tape
and whether Picou herself tampered with, or saw anybody tamper with
"I encourage counsel to stay within those limits," Briseno said.
"I do not want to try this case twice."
Picou said the tape she had watched on July 7, 2002 was the same
tape she saw in the courthouse Wednesday afternoon, despite defense's
assertion that she was warned that any admitted differences could get
the tape thrown out. Picou admitted on the stand that she did not
want that to happen.
Reaves was then called to the stand to verify his viewing of the
tape, and substantiate when he watched it, who was present and when
he handed over custody of the video camera to San Bernardino
Sheriff's Deputy Daniel Futscher, who responded to Reaves' call.
Futscher endured the same line of questioning from both the
prosecution and defense as to what he had done with the tape before
giving it to his supervisor, Det. Danny Scaturro.
Reaves and Futscher said they did not remove the tape from the
camcorder and only watched a few minutes of it -- enough to determine
that a possible crime had been committed, the men said.
Reaves and Futscher said the contents of the tape, which they had
viewed 18 months ago, seemed consistent with the tape they viewed at
noon Wednesday. Neither of the men could attest to the other footage
because neither had watched it from beginning to end on July 8, 2002.
Scaturro took the camcorder and tape to the Rancho Cucamonga
Sheriff's substation, while Futscher followed up on a lead that it
was Gregory Haidl on the tape and eventually interviewed Haidl at his
mom's house in Rancho Cucamonga.
Scaturro also endured a similar line of questioning, but mentioned
a skateboarding portion of the tape, which he said was not on the
copy he viewed in the courthouse that afternoon. The detective also
mentioned a scene in which a "woman was giving fellatio to one of the
suspects," but did not recall the bedroom sex scene, which Picou had
mentioned during her cross examination.
"If there was another sex scene on there, you would remember,
wouldn't you?" Barnett asked.
"I would imagine," Scaturro said, adding that he had watched the
tape more than a year ago.
While Scaturro was at the department, it was determined by
Futscher that the incident on the tape had taken place in the elder
Haidl's Corona del Mar home. San Bernardino Sheriff's Department
Administrative officials informed Newport Beach police of the
possible crime and determined they would take the lead in the
investigation. San Bernardino sheriffs made a copy of the tape
because up until that point, all those who had watched it had watched
in on the small screen of the camcorder, and the camera's batteries
were running low, Scaturro said.
Defense attorneys argued that San Bernardino officials were
concerned that a high-ranking Orange County official was related to
one of the defendants, and that possible contamination of the
evidence was possible because of the high-profile circumstance.
Scaturro was the final witness to be called in the hearing that
was expected to last the week. All of the witnesses maintained that
the footage on the original tape was the same as the footage shown to
them that afternoon.
The hearing will continue today at 9 a.m. in Superior Court in
Santa Ana in courtroom C45.
The court also heard a motion by the defense to have access to
grand jury testimony on regarding a separate manner in which Orange
County Sheriff Mike Carona and many of his highest-ranking officials
are under examination for their alleged mishandling of an alleged
marijuana possession by Gregory Haidl, in which he is said to have
received special treatment. Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo, one
of those who had come under fire in that incident, was fired
Wednesday, defense attorneys pointed out. Cavallo argued that he
didn't know what other testimony was being given and if it might
possibly relate to his client in the rape case.
Briseno ruled to take transcripts of the testimony but to keep
them sealed, only to be opened in the event that something directly
related to the rape case turns up.
* LOLITA HARPER is the community forum editor. She also writes
columns Wednesdays and Fridays. She may be reached at (949) 574-4275
or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.