Victim of 2008 gang rape recalls terrifying details
At times struggling to get the words out, a woman who was beaten, gang raped and taunted about her sexual orientation in Richmond in 2008 continued her testimony in Martinez Wednesday morning in the trial against the man accused of leading the brutal attack.
The victim, now 32, tearfully recounted how Humberto Salvador, now 36, beat and sexually assaulted her and kidnapped her in her own car along with three other suspects on the night of Dec. 13, 2008.
Salvador, an alleged Sureno gang member, is on trial on 14 felony counts including gang rape, kidnapping and carjacking and multiple enhancements including committing a hate crime and committing a crime for the benefit of a gang.
When the defendant and his three co-defendants found the victim’s gold Saturn that night and allegedly used it to kidnap her, it was adorned with rainbow stickers symbolizing gay pride; a rainbow-colored teddy bear sat on the car’s dashboard, photos displayed in court showed.
The victim, who is openly lesbian, testified that throughout the ordeal, Salvador made references to her sexual orientation, repeatedly asking if she liked men and asking her to prove it.
“He kept insisting, kept asking it,” she testified through a Spanish-speaking interpreter, frequently wiping away tears with her hand.
Around 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 13, 2008, the victim had returned home from a shift at an El Sobrante pizzeria to her apartment in the 1400 block of Visalia Street and parked her car.
After exiting, Salvador approached her and demanded she hand over her cellphone, wallet and car keys, she testified.
She complied, and the defendant hit her in the back of the head with a Maglite flashlight. He then asked her to remove her clothes and threatened to hit her again if she didn’t, she said.
“I didn’t want to, and he hit me again,” she said, recalling how blood poured from her head.
At the request of Deputy District Attorney Melissa Smith, the victim turned her head toward the jury box to show the scar the beating left on the back of her head, visible through her short hair.
With only her underwear still on, Salvador yelled at her to take everything off, holding the flashlight up, she testified.
The defendant gave her belongings to a co-defendant, then 21-year-old Josue Gonzalez, who prosecutors say is the only one of the four defendants who didn’t sexually assault the victim.
She testified that Salvador used his finger to penetrate her for several minutes, continuing even as she told him it was painful. Soon after, fearing that someone might see them, Salvador forced the victim into her car, accompanied by the other defendants.
One of them, Robert Ortiz, who was 15 years old at the time, drove and the fourth defendant, Darrell Hodges, then 16, sat in the backseat along with Salvador and the victim.
In court Wednesday, she described the terrifying car ride during which she said Salvador forced her to give him oral sex.
Once inside the car, she testified, the defendant told the driver to “take us somewhere where we can all have a good time.”
The car stopped at the isolated carport of an apartment complex near the Richmond BART station where Salvador sodomized and raped her, she testified.
“I yelled and told him it hurt me,” she recalled, but the defendant continued before again forcing her to orally copulate him.
Afterward, the defendant yelled out to Ortiz and Hodges, saying, “it was their turn,” the victim testified.
She said the two teens, who prosecutors say were eager to prove their worth to the Sureno gang, each took their turn forcing her to give them oral sex.
After the assaults, the defendants all fled in the victim’s car, leaving her lying naked, beaten and bloodied under the apartment complex’s stairs.
Wednesday in court, she sobbed as she recounted looking to see if the defendants were gone before running to the nearest house with a light on, where the residents called the police.
A couple of jurors dabbed away tears with tissues as she spoke.
The victim’s harrowing testimony began on Tuesday following opening statements in the trial against Salvador.
Linda Fullerton, Salvador’s attorney, told the jury Tuesday that while the victim was clearly brutally raped, less clear is which of the defendants committed which crimes and why.
Fullerton also contended that the attack wasn’t committed for the benefit of a gang and was not a hate crime, since comments about the victim’s sexual orientation were made after the sexual assault was in progress.
Also on Tuesday, Hodges was sentenced in a separate Martinez courtroom to 24 years in prison for his role in the attack.
Ortiz was set to face trial later this month and Gonzalez, who has pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery and carjacking charges, is awaiting sentencing.
Salvador’s trial is set to continue throughout the week.