Accuser Set to Take Stand in Glen Ridge Case
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ Four high school students take a 17-year-old girl to a house in an affluent New York City suburb where she carries out lewd sexual acts.
The girl has an IQ of 64, the mental and social skills of an 8-year-old. Weeks later, the four young men are arrested.
The crux of a nine-week trial to determine whether she consented to the sexual encounter in 1989 or was assaulted may occur this week when she takes the stand. No one, perhaps not even her mother, knows what she will say.
Sharply different depictions of the now 21-year-old woman have emerged.
Prosecutors portray her as a near helpless victim who was forced or coerced into a sexual performance by four varsity baseball players at Glen Ridge High School who should have known she was mentally defective.
To the defense, she is a ″Lolita″ who aggressively and provocatively pursued sexual encounters, then bragged about her exploits.
The state’s case will depend largely on her testimony and her credibility. She could testify as early as Wednesday, prosecutors said.
The state then intends to call an expert on rape trauma syndrome - the first case in which such evidence has been admitted in New Jersey. The specialist, Ann Burgess, will explain why the woman delayed reporting what happened.
″Her testimony will be the pivotal thing,″ said a prosecutor, Robert Laurino. ″And how she says it, how she appears is certainly going to be important to the jury.″
″She’s making the charges. It’s her case,″ concurred defense attorney Louis Esposito.
The woman will be administered a mild stimulant, Ritalin, because she suffers from a short attention span that makes her easily distracted, her mother testified earlier.
Testimony has shown she still considered the four defendants her ″friends″ even after the March 1, 1989, encounter.
Prosecutors say she was assaulted with a broom handle, a baseball bat and a stick in a basement of a house in Glen Ridge, 15 miles southwest of New York City. The defense contends she willingly went with the defendants and that she may have inserted the objects into herself.
Bryant Grober, 20, Christopher Archer, 21, and twins Kyle and Kevin Scherzer, 21, either grew up with her or at least were acquainted with her from school.
They are accused of conspiracy and sexual assault.
In recent court maneuvers, prosecutors have requested the use of anatomically correct dolls for use during the woman’s testimony. They said it would be ″demonstrative evidence″ to aid the jury.
State Superior Court Judge R. Benjamin Cohen denied the request, agreeing with the defense that the dolls would help prosecutors unfairly portray the young woman as childlike.
The judge, however, will permit the use of replica evidence, including a baseball bat and broomstick handle.
The defense recently moved the defendants from seats at the side of the courtroom to places in front of the first row of spectators, apparently to give them better eye contact with the witness on the stand.
New Jersey law generally prohibits defense attorneys from introducing an alleged rape victim’s sexual history as evidence. The judge decided after a pretrial hearing that the girl’s history was relevant.