Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Two sent to prison for gang rape

Dan Springer:

His mother called the teen’s sentence “racism.”

“That’s all this is — racism,” Deborah West screamed as La Crosse County Circuit Judge Michael Mulroy announced he planned to hand down the maximum sentence to Troy E. West Jr.

The 16-year-old from Onalaska, Wis., had been convicted of third-degree sexual assault for his role in the gang rape of a girl at a North Side home in February.

But from her seat in the courtroom Thursday, Deborah West shouted that the five years in prison was because her son is black — as are the other three men convicted in the case — and the girl is white.

“I’ve sat here listening to this long enough. You’re up there saying all kinds of things about my son,” she yelled at Mulroy and Assistant District Attorney Tim Gruenke, drawing a chorus of support from others in the crowd. “You’re up there accusing my child of being a gangbanger. He’s not. He’s a good kid.”

She eventually was escorted out of the courtroom.

Mulroy then denied race had any role in his decision, saying had the four been white and the victim black, the sentence would be the same.

Reavon Taylor, 20, of La Crosse also received five years in prison and five years of extended supervision in the assault.

Jarrad Panama, 20, and Miguel A. Lopez, 18, both of La Crosse, will be sentenced this afternoon.

Panama, Lopez and Taylor had pleaded guilty and West pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of third-degree sexual assault.

According to court records, West brought the girl, then 16, to Lopez’s house Feb. 5 and took her into a dark bedroom, where she was sexually assaulted by the four males.

In court Thursday, West’s attorney, John Brinckman, claimed the sex with West was consensual, and he had left the room when the other three assaulted the teen.

Mulroy called that claim ludicrous, and agreed with Gruenke that West was the ringleader who planned the assault.

Mulroy said evidence was clear the girl was too scared to resist because she was in a strange house with strange men she was convinced were gang members.

The judge also rejected any claims the girl consented by remaining silent.

“When it comes to sexual contact, no means no, yes means maybe and silence means definitely no,” Mulroy said. “To argue otherwise is illogical.”

West did not apologize Thursday, but admitted he got involved in things he should not have. He said he is not in any gang, and claimed to be a good student with hopes of attending college.

His academic record tells a different story, Mulroy said.

“You have had excessive absences, have been truant and have a history of inappropriate behavior,” the judge said, adding that West’s grade point average was 0.895.

The girl, now 17, said earlier in the hearing that her life spiraled out of control after the assault. She was overcome by emotion and had to be helped out of the courtroom after West’s mother spoke out.

In a separate hearing, Taylor apologized for taking part in the assault.

Taylor, who is scheduled to stand trial early next year for robbery, burglary, drug distribution and aggravated battery, vowed to turn his life around.

Judge says maximum not enough in gang rape

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