MARTINEZ, Calif. (AP) — Five years after a Northern California woman said she was gang-raped while her attackers taunted her for being a lesbian, the trial of one of the four men charged in the assault has gotten underway in a Contra Costa County courtroom where the 33-year-old victim is testifying.
Humberto Salvador, 36, of Richmond, is charged with 15 felonies that include kidnapping, street terrorism, carjacking, and gang rape in the Dec. 13, 2008, attack that started on a residential street in Richmond and ended outside an abandoned apartment building where the victim was left naked and injured, The Contra Costa Times reported. If convicted, Salvador faces life imprisonment.
Prosecutors are presenting the case as a hate crime that was motivated in part by the woman’s sexual orientation. She is a lesbian.
Defense lawyer Linda Fullerton told jurors in her opening statement that while she does not dispute the victim was raped, she plans to prove it was not a gang rape motivated by sexual orientation.
The woman, who is not being named because she’s the victim of an alleged sexual assault, took the witness stand Tuesday on the trial’s first day. She said she had just returned home from her restaurant job when a man ran up to her, demanding her money and car keys, and then striking her in the head with a flashlight. She then described how she had just parked her car, which was decorated with gay pride symbols like a rainbow-colored necklace and decals, when Salvador approached her, demanded her keys and wallet, and split her head open with a flashlight, the Times said. She showed jurors a scar that runs along her skull, where blood gushed out as the man forced her to strip naked on the sidewalk.
“He kept insisting and asking whether or not I liked men,” the victim said at the trial through a Spanish interpreter, adding: “I thought he would kill me.”
While one of the men sexually assaulted her, the victim testified, he said, “See, you like boys. Tell me you like boys.”
After he was done, he turned to the other men and told them it was their turn, the victim said.
Prosecutor Melissa Smith said in her opening statement that after striking the woman, Salvador ordered her to take off her clothes and said to her, “You like men now, don’t you? Tell me you like men.”
To avoid being spotted, Salvador and others forced the woman back into her car and drove her to the apartment building, where she was repeatedly raped, Smith said. Two of the attackers who were teenagers at the time participated along with Salvador in order to prove themselves to the street gang Salvador belonged to, the prosecutor said. Of those two, now 20 years old, one pleaded guilty to forced oral copulation and the other is awaiting trial.
A 26-year-old man who did not assault the woman pleaded guilty to carjacking and robbery and is scheduled to testify against Salvador, the Times said.
After the attack, the victim testified that she was left naked in a carport and that she ran into a nearby house without knocking and that the shocked residents there called authorities.