MARTINEZ -- Her face contorted as she struggled to breathe, a lesbian woman kidnapped from her Richmond neighborhood and gang raped -- allegedly in part because of her sexual orientation -- testified Tuesday at the trial of the suspected ringleader of the 2008 attack.
"I was thinking material things don't have the same value as life itself," the victim said through a Spanish interpreter as she described her thoughts after a strange man first approached, demanded her money and car keys and then busted open her head with a large metal flashlight.
Richmond resident and admitted gang member Humberto Salvador, 36, is on trial on 15 felony counts of kidnapping, robbery, street terrorism, carjacking, gang rape and other sex crimes in connection with the Dec. 13, 2008, assault that started at 14th Street and Visalia Avenue.
His charges carry a hate-crime enhancement that alleges the attack was at least partly motivated by the victim's sexual orientation, and other charge enhancements for causing great bodily injury and acting for the benefit of a criminal street gang. He faces life in prison with the possibility of parole if convicted.
Salvador, Josue Gonzalez and then-teenagers Darrell Hodges and Robert Ortiz were looting cars in the neighborhood when they spotted the victim parking her car, which she had proudly decorated with a rainbow-beaded necklace, toy bear and stickers in recognition of her sexual orientation, prosecutor Melissa Smith said in her opening statement Tuesday.
Blood was pouring from her head from Salvador's flashlight attack when Salvador ordered her to strip naked on the sidewalk on that cold winter night, Smith said.
As he began sexually assaulting the petite victim, Smith claimed that Salvador said to the woman, "You like men now, don't you? Tell me you like men."
Scared for her life and desperate to say anything to make him to stop, she cried yes.
A shout by Gonzalez that someone was approaching prompted Salvador to force the victim into her own car, where he continued to sexually assault her, according to Smith. The teens and men drove her to a dark carport in an abandoned apartment building that abuts the BART tracks and a junkyard.
There, Salvador raped her and ordered the two teens who were eager to prove themselves to the gang to sexually assault her themselves, Smith said. After they abandoned her there, naked and bleeding, the victim ran through the streets to a residence with a light on and walked through an unlocked door to meet strangers who called 911.
There is no question that the victim was brutally raped that night, defense attorney Linda Fullerton told jurors, but there are questions about who did what and why. She will be arguing that it was not a gang crime or a hate crime because the disparaging comments about sexual orientation were made after the attack was underway.
The prosecutor said the evidence against Salvador includes his semen that was recovered from the victim's body, and his palm print in the victim's blood on the flashlight.
Gonzalez, 26, who is the only person charged in the case not alleged to have personally assaulted the victim, pleaded guilty to carjacking and robbery, and is expected to be sentenced after he testifies at Salvador's trial.
Hodges, 20, pleaded guilty to forcible oral copulation in concert and was sentenced Tuesday to 24 years in prison. Ortiz, 20, is awaiting trial. Both Ortiz and Hodges were charged as adults in the case.
The trial continues Wednesday with further testimony from the victim. She had just begun to describe the sexual assault when court broke Tuesday.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.