DA Refuses to Prosecute Rape Case, Despite Eye Witnesses, DNA

| Wed May 23, 2007 1:22 PM EDT

What's the penalty for the alleged gangrape of a drunk, 17-year-old girl at a party with 10 of your buddies? Bupkus, said the Santa Clara, California District Attorney's office yesterday.

The alleged rape occurred March 3 at a wild, off-campus party hosted by a member of the DeAnza College men's baseball team in San Jose, California. Three partygoers, members of the school's women's soccer team, said they saw a young girl on a mattress on the floor, clothes around her ankles and vomit on her face, with one man on top of her and approximately 10 more looking on in a dark bedroom. Feeling "something wasn't right," the girls pushed their way into the room and rushed the victim the the hospital.

In the months since the contested rape, a grand jury has taken testimony in the case, DNA samples from some partygoers have been obtained, but an assistant district attorney cited "insufficient evidence" as the reason the DA would not prosecute. The men will not be charged with a crime, not even statutory rape. The only consequences so far have been that eight baseball players were suspended, resulting in the cancellation of three games. At least one of the players brought in by the grand jury thinks justice has been served: "From the beginning, I kind of felt like it was a witch hunt and the De Anza players were victims, and not really this girl," pitcher Chris Knopf told the San Jose Mercury News.

One of the infamous Duke lacrosse players made a similar statement just last month when prosecutors dropped all charges in that case, saying that "this entire experience has opened my eyes up to a tragic world of injustice." He was talking about himself, not the African American stripper hired for the players' party.

Undoubtedly, the Duke case and its rush to judgment is in the minds of those at the Santa Clara DA's office when they say they don't have confidence the case could be proved without a doubt. The District Attorney in the Duke case, Michael Nifong, was removed from the case and now faces ethics complaints from the North Carolina state bar related to the year-long investigation. The Santa Clara DA office may be looking to avoid a similar debacle. But there are essential differences in the two situations: this girl was underage, and three eyewitnesses have come forward.

Granted, eyewitness accounts are not always what they seem, something the media often glosses over, but the Santa Clara sheriff's office says it's not yet done investigating the case. Two of the witnesses have gone to the media to draw attention to the case. "What we saw was rape. It was a crime," one told told a local television station. The other said the lack of charges "makes us think that no girl is ever going to want to come forward and say they were violated as this girl was, because they're going to think it doesn't even matter...But it does."

—Jen Phillips