Judge blasts 'depraved and sick' video in teen rape case
As if the brutal rape of a 16-year-old girl were not bad enough, the five teens who police say committed the crime this month in Hollywood made it even worse: They filmed it.
Prosecutors presented the teens' cellphone videos as chilling evidence in court Thursday. They argued that two girls charged in the assault were too dangerous to be freed pending trial even though juveniles tried as adults normally are entitled to bond.
After Circuit Judge Lisa Porter retreated to her chambers for 20 minutes to watch the recording, she returned to the bench and described what she saw on the video. It was "depraved and sick," unlike almost anything else she has seen during her time on the bench, she said.
"This is not the garden variety felony case that comes into criminal court," Porter said. "This video is disturbing. The conduct of these young ladies is nothing but depraved. It's unconscionable to believe people can treat other people the way they treated this young lady. But videos don't lie."
Nonetheless, Porter said the law prevented her from denying bond to Erica Avery, 16, and Patricia Montes, 15. Like the three other defendants, Avery and Montes are charged with two counts each of armed sexual battery and kidnapping stemming from the Nov. 1 assault.
Porter set bond for the pair at $100,000 each, and ordered them not to leave their homes. They also must wear a GPS monitoring device, and have no Internet access. She also directed them to not have contact with the girl who was attacked.
Montes and Avery, both shackled in chains as they sat at a table with their attorneys, broke down in tears when the judge announced her ruling.
According to police reports, the rape of the 16-year-old South Broward High student began after Montes invited her friend to a house where defendant Jayvon Woolfork, 19, was staying.
There, the victim was ordered to have sex with Woolfork, and was beaten and dragged by her hair, police said. She was taken into a bedroom, stripped of her clothing and raped by Woolfork as the others held her down, police said.
Police said a cellphone belonging to Montes contained several videos documenting the attack.
"The victim was observed being struck and kicked, all over her body," by both Montes and Avery, according to the police affidavit.
Police said that Lanel Singleton, 18, admitted recording the attack.
What became clear at Thursday's hearing was that the videos, consisting of 11 snippets, show the victim being beaten, but they do not depict sexual activity.
Woolfork, along with Singleton, Montes, Avery and Dwight Henry, 17, all are charged with armed sexual battery and kidnapping.
In court Thursday, prosecutor Maria Schneider told the judge that Avery and Montes should not be granted bond.
Schneider pointed to the girls and said, "You look at these little girls and say, 'Oh my God, how could these little girls pose a threat?' They look harmless, but they're not, judge. The cruelty.
"If they wanted to act like thugs," Schneider said, "they should be treated like thugs."
Montes' lawyer, Hilliard Moldof, and Avery's lawyer, Michael Weinstein, challenged the prosecution's detention motion. They called the mothers of both girls to the stand, and each woman said their daughters had had only minor run-ins with police, and no history of violence.
The videos also may be evidence that the suspects succumbed to a popular belief among many digital-age teens: that nothing of importance happens unless it has been captured on video, even if it is self-incriminating, a psychologist said.
"Hundreds of years ago, people cut the heads off of animals, put them on a stick and paraded around," said California-based psychologist Pamela Rutledge, who studies the intersection between behavior and technology and who is not involved in the case.
"With cellphone, we can document the process of life," she said, even when that behavior is self-incriminating.
For Schneider, who heads the juvenile division of the Broward State Attorney's Office, the temptation of many young people to film everything, even actions that are violent, illegal and self-incriminating, is troubling.
In an interview after a hearing Wednesday, Schneider didn't comment on the rape case specifically, but she said, "What we have developed is this mentality among our youth that things are only important if you record them and can prove you did them.
"That engenders a callousness. I fear kids are losing touch with a sense of reality."
After Thursday's three-hour hearing, Weinstein was asked about the tears that Avery shed as Porter issued her decision.
"I think she realizes the extent of what she did," he said. "She knows the gravity of this."