Jury selection is continuing Thursday in the trial of three well-to-do teenage boys from California's conservative Orange County.
All three are charged with raping a teenage girl in July of 2002. The boys videotaped the incident, and that tape will likely be used as evidence against them.
But the defendants claim it was part of a consensual sex party that they say is not uncommon among teens in Orange County.
Greg Haidl, now 18 years old, is a skateboarder with corporate sponsorship. But it was his interest in film and videotape that helped get him into trouble. He videotaped what he says was a sex party in which he took part. Now, he and two friends, Keith Spann and Kyle Nachreiner, are charged with rape.
Haidl says, "We had been drinking pretty heavily. And she showed up and she started drinking. And then pretty much one thing led to another, and we just started making stupid decisions."
The incident took place at the home of Haidl's father, an assistant sheriff, on July 5, 2002. The fact that alcohol was involved isn't being disputed, but the boys say it wasn't rape. In fact, they claim they had consensual sex with the victim the previous night, and that she returned willingly. But no one denies the night of July 5 got ugly. The boys are not only charged with rape, but also abuse with foreign objects.
Vannessa Obmann, the victim's friend, says, "You can't point fingers and say who's at fault. Like this was a 50/50 type of deal. Like she contributed to it, and so did they."
Obmann is a friend of both the victim and the defendants. She had been in touch with the victim in the days and weeks following the incident.
She says, "I said, 'Do you honestly feel in your heart that you were raped?' And she was, like, 'You know, honestly, Vannessa,' she's like, 'In my heart, I can't say that I feel like they raped me.' She's like, 'I don't want anything to happen to them. I don't want them to go to jail, you know, they don't deserve this. I know they don't.'"
While the charges could mean decades in prison for the three young men, it is also spotlighting a suburban culture of sex, alcohol and drugs that has caught the community by surprise.
Obmann notes, "It's sad to say, but it happens a lot more than people think. It happens all the time. It just happens that these boys had it videotaped and got caught, you know?"
Part of the reason that there is so much attention to this case is, the defendants come from privileged homes where a lot of people think this sort of thing shouldn't happen.
Asking Haidl if he thinks this is acceptable behavior, Haidl's attorney Joseph Cavallo tells The Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen, he will answer all the questions posed to his client.
He says, "Unfortunately, I can't let Greg answer any of the questions that you're going to pose to him. So I can answer for him. First of all, he doesn't come from a privileged home and neither do the other two boys. In fact, the girl involved doesn't come from a privileged home as well. They were all raised pretty much the same way in a community in San Bernardino County. They all have similar homes, similar vehicles. Some came from broken homes."
Cavallo further contends that even though what took place that night is not okay, it is also not a criminal act.
He says, "It was a completely consensual encounter between all four participants. And it's not just something that's taking place here in Orange County. It's something that takes place across the country."
But Orange County's district attorney Tony Rackauckas disagrees. He says, "This is not about consent. There's no law in California or in any other states that I know of that allows for advance consent in a situation like this. I mean, this is about a woman's right to choice. Does she want to have sex with a person, yes or no? When they decide to have sex with an unconscious young lady, they're taking away her right to choice. She has no ability to withdraw any consent that she might have given in the past. This is a situation where they've taken away her humanity at that point and her dignity."
The boys have been charged with, among other things, 17 charges of forcible rape while acting in concert (gang rape). They face up to 55 years each in prison.
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