Plaintiff in tears during testimony about rape

March 2, 2011 5:48:59 PM PST
The young woman who says she was gang-raped by De Anza College baseball players wept as her friend testified in court Wednesday. The woman who made those accusations is suing for monetary damages after authorities refused to file criminal charges.

Lauren Chief Elk was the main witness in Wednesday's court session. She was one of three young women who came to the aid of their friend, the 17-year-old who says she was gang raped at a house party in San Jose almost four years ago.

"All three of these women were the ones who forced themselves into the room and encountered the 17-year-old girl on the floor," Chief Elk's attorney Jim Hammer said.

The plaintiff sobbed quietly as Chief Elk testified before a battery of lawyers representing the eight defendants, seven of them former by De Anza College baseball players.

"They tried to force their way in and one of the defendants said, 'It's none of your business, she wants to be here,'" Hammer said.

At the time, the district attorney declined to file charges, saying she could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a sexual assault occurred. A subsequent investigation by the state attorney general's office also came to the same conclusion.

ABC7 legal analyst Dean Johnson says the plaintiff may have an easier case in the civil courts.

"In a criminal case the jury has to be unanimous, in a civil case, they do not and they don't have to decide beyond a reasonable doubt," Johnson said.

At least nine of the 12 jurors must agree.

Attorneys from both sides declined to comment.

The trial is expected to last through this month.

California has a long history of criminal defendants who are acquitted or their charges dropped only to have their cases resolved in civil courts, the most famous being OJ Simpson.

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