By Bay City News Service
MARTINEZ – A 22-year-old man who took part in the brutal beating and gang rape of a 16-year-old girl outside a Richmond high school dance was sentenced to 32 years in prison in Contra Costa County Superior Court this morning.
Judge Barbara Zuniga sentenced Manuel Ortega of Richmond a month after he pleaded guilty to charges of rape in concert, rape with a foreign object in concert and forced oral copulation in concert while inflicting great bodily injury and robbery.
Ortega is one of six Richmond men charged with rape in connection with the crime that authorities say occurred in a darkened courtyard at Richmond High School on Oct. 24, 2009.
According to police, witnesses saw Manuel Ortega punch and kick the victim when she refused to give him oral sex, then stepped on her head as a co-defendant, Jose Montano, raped her.
Defense attorneys for Ortega's co-defendants have said that girl was not forcibly raped and that she flirted and drank with the defendants that night, pointing to blood-alcohol test results that show she was highly intoxicated.
Ortega entered guilty pleas to the charges against him last month in exchange for the 32-year sentence in a deal brokered with the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office, Deputy District Attorney John Cope said today.
Cope said that while Ortega could have faced a life sentence had the case gone to trial, the plea deal spares the victim from having to confront her attacker in court while still imposing a lengthy sentence.
"The district attorney's office has a very strong interest in making sure crimes like this are seriously addressed – this is a serious sentence, and it should be," he said.
Cope declined to elaborate on the details of the case, which is set to continue for the other five defendants, who are scheduled to appear together in court on Oct. 26.