Accuser in De Anza rape case talks to ABC7

August 10, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Prosecutors in Santa Clara County are once again reviewing evidence in the so-called De Anza rape case. They will determine whether criminal charges should be filed against any of the young men alleged to have been involved. The previous district attorney and the state attorney general decided not to prosecute the case four years ago, but that could change under the new district attorney. ABC7 had an exclusive interview with the woman at the center of this case.

This case first made headlines four years ago when a young woman accused 10 men -- nine of them members of the De Anza Community College baseball team -- of gang rape. No one disputes that the events took place in a small bedroom and that partygoers were in and out of the room. Prosecutors said the drinking made it difficult to determine who was involved and to what extent they took part in any sexual activity.

Before the civil trial began, a judge threw out the allegations against two of the ballplayers. During trial the young woman's attorneys dismissed allegations against two others and reached settlement agreements with three of the ballplayers accused of the most serious accusations of rape. That left just two ballplayers to face the jury to a final court outcome. The jury found them not liable on all counts, including allegations against one of the young men for rape.

For the first time, the woman who made those accusations comes forward to tell her story. She says she was too drunk to consent to having sex.

Jessica Gonzalez is not a face you would recognize. You are seeing her and learning her name for the first time and yet her story shocked a community and became part of a national debate on rape.

"So I put part of the blame on myself, but what they did was wrong and it wasn't just one person, it was all of them. They were teammates and they were a team until the very end," said Gonzalez.

The case became known as the De Anza rape case. It centered on what happened at a house near Downtown San Jose the night of March 3, 2007.

ABC7 spoke with Gonzalez twice; once in her attorney's office and again after one of her daily workouts. When she was 17, Gonzalez was passionate about playing softball and was a student at Wilson High School, a continuing education campus in Santa Clara.

"I don't know exactly who I was when I was a 17, but I played softball and went to school and I worked and I was 17 years old," said Gonzalez.

She found out through a friend about the party at the house of a De Anza Community College baseball player. She brought beer to the gathering and fully intended on drinking. She says she didn't know any of the nine ballplayers she later accused of gang rape.

"To be honest, I didn't know what any of them looked like until I was shown photos at the police department and until then, I have never seen any of them in my entire life. I couldn't even recognize photos," said Gonzalez.

She remembers drinking vodka shots from a bar set up in the house but says that's about all.

"The last thing I remember before waking up in the hospital was sitting down in a chair in the living room," said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez says she doesn't even remember a lap dance she performed on one of the young men in the front room, right before defense attorneys say she lead a ballplayer into a bedroom and demanded sex.

"I've heard everything over and over and over again, but I don't want to cloud what I know versus what everybody else was saying and I don't remember that," said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez's lawyers say the teenager ended up in the tiny bedroom, passed out and near comatose while she was repeatedly and sexually violated.

"They were either assaulting her, they were attempting to assault her, they were encouraging the assault or they were being entertained by the assault," said former plaintiff attorney Barbara Spector.

Three female soccer players were later hailed as heroes for rescuing Gonzalez from the bedroom and taking her to the hospital.

"If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here today. I wouldn't be alive, I believe in my heart that I wouldn't be here," said Gonzalez.

The former defendants have an entirely different version of what happened. None of them accepted ABC7's request for an interview, but the attorney for one of the men accused of rape says Gonzalez was not as drunk as she claims and invited the ballplayers to have group sex.

"I don't see what else they could have done. This is one of those situations where they were lured into a very troubling scenario by a provocateur and they fell for it," said former defendant attorney Jeff Nevin.

There was public outrage when then-District Attorney Dolores Carr decided not to prosecute. She said the excessive drinking by nearly everyone involved made it impossible to prove what had happened.

Gonzalez's lawyers went forward with a civil case on contingency -- they will get a portion of any settlement money. Three of the ballplayers entered into agreements that could result in millions of dollars.

"So to say, 'Oh, this helps,' It doesn't help because anytime I think about, anytime I think about that money I know where it comes from and I know all the pain that I've had to go through," said Gonzalez.

During the civil case, a judge threw out the allegations against two of the ballplayers. Gonzalez's attorneys dismissed their case against two others and reached settlement agreements with three of the ballplayers. After settlements and dismissals, only two ballplayers went through the civil trial process. The jury found them not liable on all counts ranging from rape to negligence. The defense says that outcome is vindication the sex was consensual.

"He told me when I first got into this case, he said, 'The truth will come out.' And it did," said Nevin.

The defense attorneys say their clients are moving on with their lives. Gonzalez is doing the same. She is now 22 and single mother to a 2-year-old boy. She is breaking her silence because she says she is not ashamed and believes what happened in the bedroom was wrong.

"You can't change other people's opinions, but if this changes one person or if this helps out a survivor in thinking 'I can be strong, I can keep being strong.' Than that's all that matters and that's why I'm doing this," said Gonzalez.

On Thursday night at 6, you will hear from the civil jury members themselves about how they reached their decision and why they could not, based on the evidence, hold the two ballplayers responsible for any wrongdoing in the bedroom that night.


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