Charges filed in California gang rape

RICHMOND, Calif. —Wearing bulletproof vests, three underage boys accused in the gang rape of a Richmond High School girl stood before a Contra Costa Superior Court judge Thursday to hear charges that could land them behind bars for life.

The court arraigned all three — Ari Abdallah Morales, 16; Cody Ray Smith, 15; and Marcelles James Peter, 17 — as adults in connection with Saturday's assault outside the homecoming dance that left the 15-year-old girl hospitalized through Wednesday night.

"All of the factors point to no other decision than that they be tried as adults," said Dara Cashman, head of the Contra Costa District Attorney's Office Family Violence Prevention Unit. "There's something about the coldness of it... the attitude of both the people involved, and the people who saw or knew about it. It's just very cold."

The District Attorney's Office has been flooded with "expressions of outrage from all over the country," Cashman said. While no particular threat has been made, the "community's heightened emotions" prompted the county Probation Department, which runs juvenile hall, to dress the teens in bulletproof vests, said Chief Deputy Probation Officer Paula Hernandez.

A fourth defendant, 19-year-old Manuel Ortega, was arraigned separately Thursday on charges of robbery, assault causing great bodily injury, rape in concert and an enhancement that makes him eligible for life in prison. The minors, each charged with rape with a foreign object in concert, also could be eligible for life sentences if convicted; Morales, who had a black eye in court, also is charged with robbery.

Police say they and at least a few others participated in a two-hour assault on the semiconscious girl after she collapsed while drinking with a crowd of young people in a secluded courtyard on campus, as the dance continued in the gym.