Our client, age 18 and a recent high school graduate, had become friends with the wrong group of kids. The group enjoyed smoking pot and fighting with other groups, even filming their hand-to-hand fights, usually held in the Promenade on the Peninsula parking garage in Rolling Hills Estates.
Over ten such fights were posted on a YouTube account maintained by one of the regular participants or spectators, several of which were Rancho Del Mar, Peninsula, Palos Verdes and San Pedro High School students, or recent graduates thereof.
Over time, several females gravitated to group, perhaps for free marijuana and social interaction. One told our client and his friend that another boy, age 18, who also hung out at the Promenade on the Peninsula, had raped more than one girl at a party after slipping some GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) in her drink at a party. Apparently, the boy, who went to San Pedro High School, bragged about raping the girl and said he would do it to other girls if he could.
This angered our client and his friend, also 18 years old. They contacted this individual to buy some pot and the “rapist” agreed to buy some marijuana. Our client then allegedly lured the “rapist” to the parking garage, where our client and his 18-year-old friend beat him up. A girl took the video and in it, one can see our client punching the “rapist” about six or seven times in his ribs, his back and his face after the boy had been knocked to the concrete floor of the parking garage.
Our client’s 18-year-old friend, who weighed perhaps fifty pounds more than our client and stood three inches taller, punched the “rapist” over 30 times, kicked the boy in the ribs close to twenty times, and then forced the boy to strip to his underwear in front of the onlookers.
Our client took the shoes of the rapist and a few dollars from his pockets. Our client’s friend took the boy’s cell phone and a few dollars as well.
Luckily , the boy was not badly injured and did not seek medical attention.
A video of the beating, which lasted about 50 seconds, was posted on YouTube and the local television news, local newspapers and national news outlets on the Internet saw it. The video included a lot of yelling and even cheering as the boy was beaten up. The police said the suspects were outstanding, but callers quickly notified the police of our client’s identity, as well as that of our client’s friend.
Our client’s mom immediately took our client to the Lomita Sheriff’s Station, where our client returned the victim’s shoes. Our client was charged with robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. Our client’s friend was also arrested by the Lomita Sheriffs.
The mother of the boy who was beaten up was interviewed by the press and she said her son was autistic, which was untrue according to one of his teachers at San Pedro High School. However, the press was eager to post the video and tell a story of two 18-year-olds from Palos Verdes beating up an autistic 18-year-old. Our client’s booking photo was posted on the Internet, in the local news on TV and in stories in the local newspapers.
Greg Hill knew the family of the Client and agreed to represent the Client pro bono (for free). The other 18-year-old was represented by a private attorney who charged a large legal fee.
The case was filed in the Torrance Superior Court and went on for over two years before resolving. Our client faced five years in state prison for the robbery (Penal Code § 211) and four years for the assault (Penal Code § 245(a)(4)). The sentences generally would run concurrently, but the judge had discretion to run the sentences consecutive if the facts of the case support a longer sentence, which seemed possible in this case.
The tough part of the case was knowing over six more such videos existed of our client and his friend beating up other boys in the same parking structure, in a similarly ultra-violent manner.
In the meantime, the “rapist” attempted to commit suicide more than once and was placed in a mental hospital, but it was unclear if it was due to mental trauma from his experience with our client and his friend. The “rapist” was also charged in juvenile court with raping two underage girls.
The girl who took the video of the beating was a student at Palos Verdes High School. She was prosecuted in juvenile court for conspiracy to commit robbery and assault.
Ultimately, Greg was able to resolve the case for five years of formal probation for our client, with a plea to robbery (a strike). The client was obligated to perform 60 days of community labor and attend 26 anger management classes.
Our client’s friend, however, did not reach a similarly light sentence. The District Attorney at the Torrance Courthouse sought prison for the young man. However, just as he was about to be sentenced, federal marshals arrested him and remanded him to federal jail on suspicion of violating 18 U.S. Code § 841(a)(1) by providing fentanyl to a 15-year-old boy who overdosed and died, as well as trafficking in controlled substances, causing death. If our client’s friend had no prior convictions related to sales of drugs, he faced a minimum of approximately 230 months in federal prison.
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