Jose Montano (Richmond Police Department)
Jose Montano (Richmond Police Department)

MARTINEZ -- After hearing emotional words from the victim in the notorious Richmond High gang rape case, Contra Costa County Judge Barbara Zuniga on Thursday took a deep breath and handed down stiff sentences for two men convicted in the attack.

Jose Montano, 22, of Richmond, received the maximum sentence, 33 years to life. His co-defendant, Marcelles Peter, 20, of Pinole, was given a slightly lesser sentence of 29 years to life because he had just turned 17 before the Oct. 24, 2009 mob assault on a 16-year-old sophomore girl in Richmond High school courtyard while a homecoming dance was underway across campus.

"It's beyond shocking that a human being can be dehumanized to the extent that Jane Doe was that night," Zuniga said. "She stopped being a human being to you. She became a thing for you to torture and play with.

"Both of you asked me to give you a second chance," Zuniga added. "Mr. Peter and Mr. Montano, Jane does not get a second chance."

"Mr. Peter, I can't ignore what you did and I can't ignore what you did, Mr. Montano. She deserves justice," Zuniga said.

The victim did not attend the sentencing. But for the first time since the brutal attack in which she was beaten, robbed, raped and otherwise sexually abused for more than two hours as spectators did nothing, the now-20-year-old woman known as Jane Doe publicly shared how the crime has impacted her.

In a letter read in court by a victim's advocate, Doe wrote that nearly four years later, she's still "struggling and fighting" for her high school diploma. Because of the defendants, she wrote, she missed all the high school rites of passage -- prom, senior picnic, senior portraits, walking across the stage at graduation with all her friends.

Marcelles Peter (Richmond Police Department)
Marcelles Peter (Richmond Police Department) (Richmond Police Department)

She continues to suffer from nightmares, flashbacks, body aches and migraines, and has trouble trusting people. She's trying her hardest to put it all behind her and move forward with her life, she said. Her mother wrote, "My baby girl, who once wanted to go into law enforcement, has to choose a different career because of the trauma to her body and mind."

"You both took a lot from me, more than you will ever know," Jane Doe wrote. "But I just want to say to the both of you, I forgive you. I forgive you because I deserve to be at peace, but no matter how hard I try and wish I could, I'll never forget and there are parts of me that will never be healed."

According to trial testimony, she was in and out of consciousness during the attack that started after she became intoxicated on brandy provided by some of the participants. Officers found her draped over a picnic table support beam just before midnight; a young woman in the neighborhood heard what was happening through the grapevine and had called 911. She was mostly nude and near death from head trauma, hypothermia and alcohol poisoning.

"The only kindness she was shown that night was she was beaten so badly that she doesn't remember what happened to her," Zuniga said.

Montano's and Peter's attorneys on Thursday morning asked Zuniga to sentence the defendants to the minimum term of 15 years to life, in the hope of them one day having a chance to be productive members of society.

Peter's attorney Gordon Brown said Peter is remorseful about what happened and that, while he didn't do anything to stop it, continues to assert his innocence. While he chose not to make a statement in court, Montano offered an apology to the victim, her family, and his own. His attorney, Jane Elliot, said Montano has reflected greatly on the attack, and hopes to one day harness his remorse to help others.

"No words can undo what's been done; all I can do is apologize for my actions and wish to move forward from this situation," Montano said.

Both men's DNA was left at the crime scene, Peter's on a condom and Montano's on a condom wrapper. Peter admitted to police that he touched the girl in a sexual way; numerous witnesses testified to Montano raping her.

"If I could I would give Mr. Montano more years because what he did was despicable," the judge said.

Peter and Montano were found guilty of rape in concert, sexual penetration in concert, oral copulation in concert and a single charge enhancement for great bodily injury caused to the victim.

Jurors heard more than six weeks of testimony from about 30 witnesses, including spectators who did nothing to help the girl and two young men who were convicted after taking plea deals. Manuel Ortega, 22, of Richmond, is serving a 32-year sentence and Peter's former neighbor, 20-year-old Ari Morales of San Pablo, is serving 27 years.

Richmond residents John Crane Jr., 46, and Elvis Torrentes, 25, are awaiting trial in the case, and several other attackers whose DNA implicates them in the crime have never been identified.

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