Richmond rape suspects in court
by Heather Cassell
Two of four suspects were charged Tuesday with 10 felony counts each for allegedly gang-raping and taunting an out lesbian woman last month in Richmond.
One of the suspects faces two additional felony charges.
Humberto Hernandez Salvador, 31, and Josue Gonzalez, 21, were charged January 6 with kidnapping, carjacking, and several counts of forcible oral copulation, forcible rape, and sodomy in concert, said Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney Daniel Cabral. Salvador faces additional charges of forcible sexual penetration and a hate crime, Cabral said. Salvador was also charged with being armed with a gun, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Salvador and Gonzalez did not enter pleas in court, but requested court-appointed attorneys, Cabral said. Bail was set at $2.2 million for Salvador and $1.9 million for Gonzalez, added Cabral, and both men are being held at Contra Costa County jail. The suspects face the possibility of life in prison if convicted.
Darrell Hodges,16, a Hercules resident, according to media reports, is being charged as an adult with similar offenses against the victim. A 15-year old Richmond boy, who allegedly participated in the assault and whose name hasn't been released by authorities, and Hodges are awaiting arraignment, Cabral said. Cabral is asking the court to prosecute the boys as adults, but he declined to comment further. The youth are being held at a juvenile detention center, Cabral said.
Some community members question if prosecuting the juveniles as adults is the right action to take.
"It's a hate motivated crime, so unfortunately it may satisfy an urge for vengeance," said Jovida Guevara-Ross, executive director of Community United Against Violence, who hopes the prosecution will recognize that the youths allegedly involved in the attack were being led by adults.
"I would hope that prosecutors would look at that there were two adults with them who were leading the attack, from all accounts," Ross said.
Authorities are seeking to prosecute the suspects to the maximum extent of the law, according to Lieutenant Mark Gagan, public information officer of the Richmond Police Department.
All four suspects are scheduled to appear before Judge Joni Hiramoto in Department 32 on January 15 at 9 a.m., Cabral said.
The victim, known as Jane Doe to protect her privacy, remains traumatized by the events of December 13, when the alleged attackers approached the 28-year-old woman, a family spokeswoman said. The suspects allegedly struck her with a blunt object and sexually assaulted her in her car parked along the residential street lined with single family homes on one side and a playground on the other side that curves around Cesar E. Chavez Elementary School. The suspects allegedly forced the victim back into the car when they saw another person approaching.
The suspects drove the victim's car seven blocks from 1500 Visalia Avenue in the Belding-Woods neighborhood where the attack began to 1317 Burbeck Avenue - a burned out apartment building. There next to other vacant apartment buildings and the Richmond BART station train tracks the assault continued for an estimated 45 minutes.
During the assault the attackers allegedly taunted the victim for being a lesbian and took her wallet before driving off in her car that had a rainbow sticker on it, according to Gagan. Gagan declined to tell the Bay Area Reporter what the comments had been. She was left naked outside the apartment building, according to media reports, and sought help from a nearby resident, who called police. The victim was examined using a rape kit, Gagan said.
The victim's car was recovered in Richmond by police December 14 around 4 p.m. and impounded for investigation, Gagan said. The car was thoroughly examined and evidence was excavated before Jane Doe's car was returned to her, Gagan said.
"What's difficult in this case is the level of aggression that the suspects showed was so immediate and over the top I don't think that there was anything that our victim could have done to avoid being victimized," said Gagan, who was a sexual assault unit supervisor for 10 years. "From what I understand, it was an immediate, extremely aggressive attack without provocation and without really any warning."
"When you have suspects that are that menacing you know we are dealing with a very extreme situation," said Gagan.
A family and a community in healing
Charging the suspects, who were arrested last week, can only bring some relief to Jane Doe and her family, which includes her partner and their 8-year-old daughter, a family spokeswoman said.
According to a January 5 blog post at http://tatasworld.typepad.com/were_here_for_you/, Jane Doe continues to experience medical issues from being "struck twice on the back of the head with great force" resulting in "14 sutures." Jane Doe is experiencing a variety of issues that include "dizziness, loss of appetite," and "bad migraines since the attack" as well as "memory loss" and a profound sense of "fear."
"She is in a very fragile emotional state, wanting to onl
The family hasn't returned to their home since the attack, Gagan and Nunez said. The family picked up Jane Doe's car from the police December 29, according to Gagan. But the car remains stained by the attack, according to Nunez.
The Richmond Police Department set up a trust fund through Community Violence Solutions to help Jane Doe and her family.
Members of Jane Doe's "advocacy team" along with the Contra Costa County victim witness program are working to meet and maintain Jane Doe's and her family's needs.
Jane Doe isn't speaking to the media at this time, Nunez said.
"I'm really proud of our community," Nunez said. "I feel like our community helped solve the case."
Richmond leaders and community members have galvanized around the brutal attack supporting Jane Doe and seeking ways to prevent potential assaults in the future. Richmond has an estimated 102,000 residents, according to the police department's Web site.
Some community leaders and individuals believe recent political events and right-wing attacks on individuals in the LGBT community are somewhat responsible for contributing to the attack.
Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, who cast the sole vote in favor of the county joining the lawsuit to appeal Proposition 8 last month, believes that the attack and the county's vote seeks "to divide people."
"We have to be vigilant in the wake of the passage of Proposition 8 [and] we have to be vigilant against acts like this," said Gioia. "Unfortunately some of the political rhetoric potentially provokes actions like this."
"The truth is that LGBT people are targeted all the time for horrendous crimes," said Rhonda James, executive director of Community Violence Solutions.
Violence against LGBT individuals increased 24 percent nationwide in 2007, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. San Francisco experienced a seven percent increase in anti-LGBT violence the same year, NCAVP reported.
"As a community we need to speak up about this hate crime and to speak with one voice so that we don't show that we will tolerate this type of hate crime," Gioia said.
Reported sexual assaults in Richmond rose about 3 percent from 32 in 2006 to 35 in 2007, according to Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.
"Most of our crime is down, but one category of crime that has gone up a tiny bit has been rape," McLaughlin said. She's hoping that the rise in reported rapes in Richmond doesn't indicate a potential trend.
McLaughlin has yet to reach out to Jane Doe and her family, she said, in spite of seeing Jane Doe's partner at a candlelight vigil late last month. In the meantime, she said she is working with the community to help heal from the recent attack.
"[I] would love to be able to give a personal expression of my concern," said McLaughlin, happy that the suspects were apprehended.
She praised the police for doing an "excellent job" with handling the case and charging it as a hate crime.
McLaughlin said she plans to continue educating the community about tolerance. The Richmond Police Department also has a crime prevention program that educates community members about safety.
"Richmond is a place for all our residents regardless of race, creed, culture, or sexual orientation," McLaughlin said. "We are rising as a community together."
How to help
Donations to assist Richmond Jane Doe s family can be made to: Community Violence Solutions, Attn: Joanne Douglas, 2101 Van Ness Street, San Pablo, CA 94806. On the memo portion of the check write "Richmond Jane Doe."
Events in support of Jane Doe and her family:
Friday and Saturday at Velvet: January 9, at 8 p.m. Located at 3411 MacArthur at 35th in Oakland. A $5-$20 suggested donation at the door will be contributed to Jane Doe's trust fund. For more information, contact: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, January 11: Peace rally at Nicholl Park located at 3000 MacDonald Avenue in Richmond at 4 p.m. For more information, contact: Elecia Holland at email@example.com.
Richmond Safety Tips: http://www.ci.richmond.ca.us/DocumentView.asp?DID=611
For more information, contact: Michelle Milam at (510) 620-6538 or firstname.lastname@example.org.