Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 49 / 7 December 2017
 

A year after lesbian raped,
hearing set for next month

NEWS


s.hemmelgarn@ebar.com

Defendant Humberto Hernandez Salvador, center, entered a not guilty plea through his attorney during a court hearing in January. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
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As the one-year anniversary of the brutal gang rape of an out lesbian in Richmond approaches, the woman – known to the public only as Jane Doe – continues her recovery. The preliminary hearing in the case is set for early 2010.

Danielle Douglas, the Contra Costa County deputy district attorney who is handling the case, said the victim is "coping."

"That's really all I can say," Douglas said. "She's doing her best to try to move forward."

The December 13, 2008 incident started around 9:30 p.m. in the 1500 block of Visalia Avenue in Richmond's Belding-Woods neighborhood. After getting out of her car, the woman was sexually assaulted and then forced back into her car after the suspects noticed someone approaching, according to police.

She was driven seven blocks to the 1300 block of Burbeck Avenue, where she was repeatedly sexually assaulted near an apartment complex, police reported.

During the assault, the attackers allegedly taunted the victim for being a lesbian. They also took her wallet before driving off in her car, which had a rainbow sticker on it, according to Richmond Police spokesman Lieutenant Mark Gagan, who also said that the victim was an out lesbian.

The woman, who was left naked, sought help from a nearby resident, who called police, according to media reports.

She was taken to a hospital and treated for her injuries, which Gagan previously told the Bay Area Reporter included a serious injury that resulted from being struck with a blunt object. The woman was examined using a rape kit. Her car was recovered the next day in Richmond, police said.

At the time of the incident the victim had a partner, and as of this past January they had a daughter who was 8.

Four suspects were arrested about two weeks after the incident. Humberto Hernandez Salvador, 32; Josue Gonzalez, 22; and Darrell Albert Hodges, 16, pleaded not guilty earlier this year to felony charges that include kidnapping; carjacking; forcible rape; and forcible oral copulation.

A fourth suspect, Robert James Ortiz, 16, is set to enter a plea on January 7 on similar charges, according to court documents.

Salvador and Gonzalez are in custody in the Martinez Detention Facility. Hodges and Ortiz, who have both been charged as adults, are in John A. Davis Juvenile Hall in Martinez.

"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. "From what I understand, it was an immediate, extremely aggressive attack without provocation and without really any warning."

Well-known attorney Gloria Allred, who previously represented the mother of slain transgender teen Gwen Araujo, is representing Jane Doe in this case, Douglas said.

Case moves forward

Douglas, the deputy district attorney, said that it's common for cases such as this to take some time before making it to the preliminary hearing, which in this case is set for January 14 in Martinez.

"It just depends on the case and how many attorneys are involved, and how many different defendants," said Douglas.

A preliminary hearing is typically when a judge decides whether there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial.

"What makes it difficult is there being four different defendants and four different defense attorneys," Douglas said.

She said the victim, "is traumatized ... so moving things along isn't something I'm particularly, right now, trying to push forward."

In addition, the defendants "are looking at life," in prison if convicted, Douglas said, "so every defendant's attorney says they need ample time to prepare."

She also said that DNA evidence that was recovered had just been received a couple months ago, and she said, "I don't think all of it's back yet."

Douglas said the case could be broken into separate trials so that evidence could be introduced against a single defendant while not incriminating any other defendant.

If the defendants are tried together, the judge may allow evidence to be used on one defendant, but that evidence can't be used on other defendants.

"I couldn't begin to tell you whether they will be tried together ... a lot of things are based on what the judge decides," said Douglas.

It could take another year for the case to make it to trial, said Douglas.

"I know it's a year old, but the case is still fairly early, at least as far as where we are in the proceeding," she said.

An attorney representing one of the defendants said her client does not have a troubled background.

Elizabeth Barker, Contra Costa County deputy public defender, said of her client Hodges, "He's a very sweet young man with a wonderful family."

She said that he had not been in trouble before, and a search of court records in Martinez turned up no information.

"He's a great kid, and I think a lot of times people jump to conclusions about what has happened, and those conclusions in his case are inaccurate," said Barker, who declined a request to interview him.

Contra Costa County court documents show that Salvador has been found guilty in several cases since 2003, including at least two cases involving auto theft.

He had previously been sentenced to county jail, and he was on probation when the December 2008 rape occurred.

Linda Fullerton, who is representing Salvador, did not respond to a request for comment.

David Headley, who's representing Gonzalez, declined to comment on the case. An attorney for Ortiz could not be reached.

The defendants face charge enhancements of inflicting great bodily injury in a sex offense, and Salvador has pleaded not guilty to additional enhancements of committing a hate crime and being armed with a firearm or deadly weapon, according to the charging documents.

Bail for Ortiz is $3.5 million, bail for Salvador is $2.2 million, and bail for Gonzalez and Hodges is $1.9 million, according to court documents.

Another rape

Since last year, Jane Doe's case has been overshadowed by another rape. In October, a teenaged girl was gang-raped outside a Richmond high school as several people looked on, according to media reports.

Rhonda James, executive director of Community Violence Solutions, said the agency was the conduit for almost $40,000 for Jane Doe over a period of three months. She said that people were "amazingly supportive."

However, she acknowledged, "there's always a danger that the minute something else happens," a case can be forgotten.

James also said, though, "We don't forget" the cases "because we do this every day. No one victim is more important or less important than anyone else."






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