A superior court judge on Monday dismissed one of the felony charges brought against five of eight defendants in a videotaped assault case that occurred in Isla Vista in September 2000.
In September, a grand jury indicted the eight defendants – Charles Anderson, Matthew Blessing, Greg Singer, Scott Carter, Joshua Burns, Patrick Mueller, David Rhodes and Adam Delafuente – for varying misdemeanor and felony counts, including battery and kidnapping. In the fall, the lawyers for Anderson, Blessing, Singer, Carter and Burns – all charged with administering an intoxicating agent with intent to commit a felony – moved to have that count, as well as the four others, dismissed.
On Monday, Judge Frank Ochoa decided that only the felony charge for false imprisonment would be dismissed. Ochoa said the videotape of the assault does not suggest that the suspects intended to commit felony false imprisonment when they gave the victim alcohol.
The suspects were arrested last June after the I.V. Foot Patrol received a videotape they said shows the defendants force-feeding alcohol to a male 19-year-old victim, stripping and urinating on him, and finally leaving him on a couch in the middle of the street on the 6600 block of Trigo Road.
A grand jury charged the suspects with various counts of felony battery with serious bodily injury, felony administering an intoxicating agent with the intent to commit a felony, felony kidnapping, misdemeanor sexual battery and misdemeanor battery.
Carter, Singer, and Burns were the only defendants charged with all five counts. Blessing and Anderson face all counts except sexual battery, and Mueller and Rhodes face counts of felony kidnapping and misdemeanor battery. Delafuente, who was only charged with misdemeanor battery, pleaded no contest in October.
Count one – the felony battery charge against Anderson, Blessing, Singer, Carter and Burns – was upheld because Ochoa said the definition of battery with serious bodily injury includes, but is not limited to, the loss of consciousness.
“The evidence indicates that while the victim was conscious, Mr. Burns applied some force to pull his wrists and [make the victim] take a shot of alcohol, which … assisted in his loss of consciousness,” he said. “Mr. Anderson assisted by physically holding the victim in place. … It’s clear that prior to the actions of the defendant, the victim was inebriated but was conscious, and because of the ingestion of alcohol he reached a dangerous blood alcohol level. This is a case of blood alcohol poisoning.”
Ochoa said count three – the kidnapping charge against Anderson, Blessing, Mueller, Carter, Singer, Burns and Rhodes – was upheld because the videotape showed evidence that several of the defendants’ actions fall under the legal definition of kidnapping, including moving a victim without his consent.
“The victim was moved from the apartment, to the laundry room, to the street … a testimony demonstrated that distance was about 167 feet. He was placed in the roadway … Three cars drove close by him in the video, including two at one time,” Ochoa said. “There was evidence that he was potentially moved to decrease detection … [and] there is evidence to suggest the victim was taken out of the home for an illegal purpose … The grand jury could have found any of it illegal.”
Ochoa upheld count four, misdemeanor sexual battery, against Carter, Singer and Burns because Ochoa said the video showed probable cause for the charge.
“The video shows Mr. Burns place a laundry hose and crutch against the victim’s anus while he is unconscious,” he said.
Ochoa cited part of the videotape in which Anderson “was depicted holding the victim by the waist and simulating anal intercourse for the amusement of himself and others,” as one reason to uphold count five, the battery charge. The jury indicted Blessing, Mueller, Rhodes, Carter, Singer, Burns and Delafuente on that charge as well. Ochoa said any use of force could constitute misdemeanor battery.
The defendants will appear in court again on March 19.