Witnesses tell history of rape tape

Lolita Harper

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

crime.

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

Court documents.

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

evidence.

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

other tampering.

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

the tape.

"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 lolita.harper@latimes.com.

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