Seven of the eight suspects accused of assaulting a 19-year-old Santa Barbara City College freshman on videotape in September 2000 appeared in court Monday for a hearing on a motion by their attorneys to reduce or dismiss the charges due to a lack of evidence.
Defense attorneys told Superior Court Judge Frank Ochoa that there was not enough evidence to support the various felony counts the suspects are charged with. They also argued that the presence of the legal secretary to Deputy District Attorney Joyce Dudley — the district attorney prosecuting the case — on the grand jury that indicted the suspects was judicially improper.
The videotape of the assault, defense attorneys argued, incorrectly suggests the suspects had the intent of causing harm to the victim.
“The prosecuting attorney is arguing that when they gave him the alcohol it was committing a felony kidnapping. That is, of course, ludicrous,” defense attorney Michael Carty said. “This case is really a prank gone wrong. When this young man came into their apartment bragging about how much he could drink, and how much dope he could smoke, they gave him two shots and he passed out. It was just college hazing.”
The Sheriff’s Dept. arrested Matthew Blessing, 19, of Folsom, Scott Carter, 19, of Lompoc, and San Diego residents Joshua Burns, 20, Patrick Mueller, 20, David Rhodes, 19, Adam De LaFuente, 19, Greg Singer, 20, and Charles Anderson, 19. Blessing, Mueller and Anderson were residents of the 6600 block Trigo Rd. apartment where the assault occurred.
Carter, Singer and Burns were charged with kidnapping, administering an intoxicating agent with intent to commit a felony, felony kidnapping and misdemeanor sexual battery. Blessing and Anderson face all counts except for sexual battery. Mueller and Rhodes face counts of felony kidnapping and misdemeanor battery.
In October, Ochoa sentenced De LaFuente to 30 days in Santa Barbara County Jail and three years probation after he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery.
Prosecutors say the videotape of the September 2000 assault, which was anonymously turned in to the IVFP 10 months later, showed the suspects feeding the victim shots of alcohol until he was unconscious. The suspects allegedly proceeded to write on the victim’s face, body and genitals with markers and white-out, disrobe the victim, and urinate on him. They are accused of then placing the victim on a couch outside the apartment and dumping trash on him. The victim was found by IVFP officers and transported to Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital.
Carty said the kidnapping charge was absurd and the incident was nothing more than college hazing.
“There was no damage done. He wasn’t harmed in any way – except he had a bad hangover. When he was carried to the street and got trash dumped on him, no one thought about attempting to kidnap him,” Carty said. ” They pulled the couch out of the street so he wouldn’t receive a drunk in public.”
Carty said the fact that witnesses did not intervene is a sad social statement about Isla Vista.
“Why didn’t anybody who was in the room try to stop it?” he said. “One of the stories is how could this have happened? How could things have get out of hand like this? In the videotape, it shows five females around laughing. Why didn’t anyone watching them try to stop them? That, to me, is more interesting than the crimes that have been committed.”