MARTINEZ -- A 19-year-old man convicted in the Richmond High gang rape case appeared ashamed on the witness stand Thursday as he described what he and others did to a 16-year-old girl who was beaten, raped and otherwise sexually abused for more than two hours in a dark campus courtyard.

Ari Morales, who took a plea deal in exchange for a 27-year prison sentence, testified Thursday against his former co-defendants Marcelles Peter, 20, and Jose Montano, 22, at their dual jury trial. Peter and Montano each face life in prison if convicted as charged in the Oct. 24, 2009, attack on the sophomore girl the night of the school's homecoming dance after she became severely intoxicated.

Photo of Ari Morales provided by the Richmond Police Department.
Photo of Ari Morales provided by the Richmond Police Department.

Much of his testimony implicated Montano, who he said had sex with the girl while she was unconscious. He said Peter, who grew up across the street from him in San Pablo before Peter's family moved to Pinole, was there but that he "didn't see him have any contact with the victim."

Morales, who was 16 at the time, said he tried to attend the dance but was turned away for not having a school I.D. He then walked back to the school basketball courts, where a guy named Elvis directed him to the courtyard by saying, "There was a drunk white girl back there."

It was unclear whether Morales was referring to 25-year-old Elvis Torrentes, one of two men awaiting trial in the case, or an Elvis by a different surname who has been referenced by at least one other witness.


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When he got to the courtyard, Morales said there were more than 20 men and boys circled around the victim as she lay unconscious on the ground. About 10 minutes later, he said, Manuel Ortega, who also took a plea deal and is serving a 32-year sentence, "started to torture" the girl.

"He got down on the floor and tried to get (orally) copulated, but he wasn't successful so he started punching her repeatedly (in the head)," Morales said.

Then he saw Montano "take a condom out of his pocket and try to put it on" before mounting the victim.

"Did he try to do it or did he do it?" senior deputy district attorney John Cope asked.

"He did it," Morales said.

"He went down to the floor, and it looked like he was having sexual intercourse with her," Morales said, describing Montano's body making "inward" and "outward" movements about "six or seven" times while Ortega continued to punch the girl in the head.

"So he was punching her when Mr. Montano was having sex with her?" Cope asked.

"Yeah," Morales said.

"Then what happened?" Cope asked.

"Montano got up and threw the condom away," Morales said.

On cross-examination, Montano's attorney, Jane Elliot, questioned Morales as to whether he ever actually saw Montano expose himself, put on the condom, or penetrate the girl, and Morales wavered about whether he saw an act of rape or an attempt.

As to his own crimes, he admitted to inserting a walkie talkie antenna into the victim, stealing her ring that he personally removed from her finger, and urinating on her.

When asked why, he said, "out of stupidity."

But, later on the stand, with his eyes gazed to the floor, he claimed that he did not urinate on her,

"Before the police were ever involved, you were telling people you peed on her, weren't you?" Cope asked.

"I don't remember," Morales said

Morales said he only was in the courtyard for "about 10 minutes," contradicting previous testimony that he and Ortega moved the victim not long before police responded to the scene and found the girl near death under a picnic table. A doctor testified Wednesday that she "probably would have died" if she did not get medical attention when she did.

"Do you remember telling me and my investigator yesterday that you left and came back and left and came back?" Elliot asked.

"No," Morales said.

The trial resumes Monday afternoon.

Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.