Police to scrutinize phone video in Brooklyn gang rape case

AP News
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Posted: Jan 13, 2016 10:33 PM
Police to scrutinize phone video in Brooklyn gang rape case

NEW YORK (AP) — Police on Wednesday were examining three cellphones recovered from some teenage boys accused of raping a young woman in a playground after defense lawyers said at least one of the boys shot video of the woman smiling and laughing during the encounter.

It was unclear whether the short video clip would help or hurt the case against the five boys, who have been charged with assaulting the 18-year-old woman after finding her drunk in the park in the company of her father.

A police spokesman, Deputy Chief Edward Mullen, said police had obtained search warrants for the cellphones seized following the boys' arrests. He said the phones were being examined, but he had no information about their content.

Investigators have said two of the boys have claimed that when they entered the Brooklyn park on the night of Jan. 7 they found the woman having some type of sexual contact with an older man, later identified as her father.

Police said the father was driven off by the boys, then returned and was ordered out of the park a second time by a boy who pulled a gun. The father later flagged down a police car for help. The woman told police that before officers arrived she was raped by the boys.

Lawyers for the boys said the cellphone video clip showed the woman smiling, with her clothes partially removed, but it remained unclear when during the encounter that video was taken or what happened after the camera was turned off.

"I think the video casts more doubt on what exactly happened in this case," said one of the lawyers, Abdula Greene.

The defense also has seized on the fact that a handgun has not been recovered.

Four of the defendants — Onandi Brown, 17, Denzel Murray, 14, and Shaquell Cooper and Ethan Phillip, both 15 — appeared in court on Tuesday to face rape, criminal sex act, sexual abuse and other charges. Attorneys for each of them said they denied the allegations.

The fifth suspect, Travis Beckford, 17, was arraigned Wednesday night on similar charges. He was held on $2,500 bail.

At Beckford's court hearing, prosecutor Lisa Nugent asked for $25,000 bail, down from the $500,000 she had sought for the other defendants a night earlier, when they ended up being held on bails ranging from $10,000 to $50,000.

Defense attorney Debbie Silverman argued that the dramatic difference was a tacit admission the case was "getting weaker and weaker." Silverman said her client, like the other defendants, wasn't picked out of lineup, and she repeated arguments of other defense attorneys that the emergence of the cellphone video clip damaged the credibility of the woman and her father.

Nugent told the judge that authorities are continuing to "fully investigate the case tirelessly."

In court papers, authorities said Murray and Phillip claimed that Cooper had intercourse with the woman and that Brown and Beckford had the woman perform oral sex. Murray and Philip were the first to turn themselves in. The teens say all of the sex acts were consensual.

Police also were awaiting the results of DNA tests. Those won't be available for about a week.

Police have not sought DNA from the father and say he's not facing any charges.

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Associated Press writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.