2009 Richmond High School gang rape

On October 24, 2009, in Richmond, a city on the northeast side of the San Francisco Bay in California, U.S., a female student of Richmond High School was gang raped repeatedly by a group of young males in a courtyard on the school campus while a homecoming dance was being held in the gymnasium. Seven men faced charges related to the rape, and one was released after a preliminary hearing. Of the six remaining defendants, four eventually pleaded guilty and two were convicted at trial.

Richmond High School gang rape
Location of Richmond in the U.S. state of California
LocationRichmond, California, U.S.
DateSaturday, October 24, 2009
9:30 p.m. – c. midnight (UTC-7)
Attack type
Assault, rape, robbery[1][2]
VictimYoung female student[3]

The incident received national attention.[4][5] As many as 20 witnesses are believed to have been aware of the attack, but for more than two hours, no one notified the police.[6]

Six men were imprisoned for the attack. Four pleaded guilty: Manuel Ortega was sentenced to 32 years in prison; Ari Morales was sentenced to 27 years in prison; Elvis Torrentes and John Crane were sentenced to six and three years in prison, after pleading guilty to lesser charges.[7] Jose Montano and Marcelles Peter went to trial in 2013 and were convicted of forcible rape acting in concert, a forcible act of sexual penetration while acting in concert, and forcible oral copulation in concert.[8] Montano and Peter were respectively sentenced to 33 years to life and 29 years to life, and their convictions and sentences were upheld in 2019.[7]


Entrance to Richmond High School, pictured in 2023

On Saturday, October 24, 2009, at about 9:30 p.m. (UTC-7), at the conclusion of the homecoming dance, a classmate invited the victim to join a group of males ranging in ages from 15 to late 40s, who were drinking alcohol in a dark courtyard on campus. She was propositioned for sex by the alleged attackers. When she refused, she was placed on a nearby concrete bench and continuously beaten and raped for 212 hours, at times with a 'foreign object'. They also poured alcohol down her throat. Test results showed she had an almost fatal blood alcohol level.[9] A local resident heard of the attack from her boyfriend and immediately contacted the police. The victim was found unconscious under a picnic table and was air-lifted to a hospital in critical condition.[10] She was released from the hospital on Wednesday, October 28.

A bystander described the assault:

They were kicking her in her head and they were beating her up, robbing her and ripping her clothes off; it's something you can't get out your mind. I saw people, like, dehumanizing her; I saw some pretty crazy stuff. She was pretty quiet; I thought she was like dead for a minute but then I saw her moving around. I feel like I could have done something but I don't feel like I have any responsibility for anything that happened.[11]

Witnesses are believed to have recorded video footage of the attack using camera-equipped mobile phones, but local police have not been able to obtain the recordings. At least two dozen bystanders[12] watched the assault without calling 911 to report it.[2][4][13]



Seven male suspects had been arrested in connection with the case.[14] One of the initial suspects was subsequently released without charge due to lack of evidence.[15] This initial suspect has since claimed that he was merely a witness present at the scene, and that his intent was to help the victim including offering her his shirt.[15][16] However, he said that he did not contact authorities because he lacked a cell phone and was afraid of retaliation for "snitching".[15][16] The remaining suspects range in age from 15 to 21.[17] Police stated that they were looking for additional people in relation to the crime.[18] A 43-year-old male was later arrested in relation to the events.[19]

Four of the suspects were arraigned on October 29 in the Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez. One entered a plea of not guilty to the two charges of rape with a foreign object and rape by force, while the others chose not to enter a plea at the time.[4][20] Authorities have indicated that they expect all three juvenile defendants to be charged as adults.[21][22] All six suspects entered not guilty pleas on Tuesday, December 1, 2009.[23]



The attack shocked the community and the nation. Local media said that the act "crossed the boundary of civilized behavior".

Any group of young men who could carry out such an attack on a defenseless, intoxicated student are nothing more than a roving pack of vicious animals, and in a civilized society, vicious animals are put down. Humans who act in such a manner are put away for the rest of their lives.

— Chip Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle[1]

The attack became the most popular blog topic of the week of October 26–30, as bloggers expressed their outrage over the rape. During that week, more than a quarter (26%) of the links from blogs to news sites were to articles about the attack.[24] A website was created in order to support the victim and discuss ways to prevent sexual assault on women.[25]

After the attack, some talked of vigilante justice against the attackers and onlookers.[26]

The victim's parents made their first public statement on November 1:

Please do not respond to this tragic event by promoting hatred or by causing more pain. We have had enough violence already in this place. If you need to express your outrage, please channel your anger into positive action. Volunteer at a school. Go help a neighbor. Be courageous in speaking the truth and in holding people accountable. Work toward changing the atmosphere in our schools and in this community so that this kind of thing never happens again.[27]

Over 500 students, parents, and area residents held a candle-lit vigil on November 3. At the vigil, the victim's church pastor read a statement from the victim, stating, "We realize people are angry about this," but that "violence is always the wrong choice."[26] 200 people marched from Richmond High School to a nearby park and held a rally on November 7 to show support for the victim.[28]

In response to the events, California State Senator Leland Yee suggested legislation to broaden the criteria when failure to report a crime constitutes a criminal offense. Under Yee's proposal, bystanders to crimes against minors could be charged with a misdemeanor criminal offense for failure to immediately report the incident to the police.[29]

The 18-year-old woman who was the only person to call 911 and make police aware of the assault in progress, was honored by the Richmond City Council on November 17.[30]

Security around the school was increased following the attack: high-definition surveillance cameras were installed, along with increased lighting and new fencing.[31]

Preliminary hearing


On November 15, 2010, a preliminary hearing began in Contra Costa County, during which twenty witnesses appeared before the court.[32] Of the seven defendants, six faced charges that could lead to life imprisonment, while the seventh faced a maximum term of 26 years in jail.[33] All of the defendants pleaded not guilty to the crime. Evidence presented during the hearing connected four of the suspects to DNA found at the scene, although there was no DNA evidence connecting the remaining three defendants to the crime.[34]

As a result of the hearing, one of the defendants was released. Of the remaining six, two had their charges reduced, with five facing life imprisonment and one facing an eight-year sentence.[35]



Jury selection for trials of the defendants began September 4, 2012.

Manuel Ortega, who was an adult at the time of the crime and the most heavily charged of the six defendants, pleaded guilty to all charges against him on September 6 and was sentenced on October 19, accepting a 32-year sentence and avoiding possible life in prison.[36][37] He was convicted of rape in concert, rape by a foreign object in concert, forced oral copulation in concert resulting in great bodily injury, and robbery.[36] Ortega was described by authorities as an initiator in the rape, with witnesses alleging he ripped off the girl's clothes, punched and kicked her in the head, sexually assaulted her and encouraged others to do the same.[36]

On January 11, 2013, Ari Morales was sentenced to 27 years in prison.[38]

In June 2013, in the trials of Jose Montano, 22 and Marcelles Peter, 20, the victim testified in court for the first time.[39] She stated she had never consumed alcohol previously, and that she did not drink from a bottle of brandy the men had with them. Salvardor Rodriguez, previously sentenced, testified "Before she even said hello, she grabbed a bottle (of brandy) and started chugging it."[39] The prosecutor said in his opening statement that head trauma and her 0.35 percent blood alcohol level interfered with her memory of the events, saying, "They were pouring booze in her and on her, and that's after she was drinking it on her own."[39]

Montano was sentenced to 33 years to life and Peter was sentenced to 29 years to life.[40]

Charges were dismissed against the then-15-year-old classmate who invited her to the courtyard. Two more men—Elvis Torrentes, 25 and John Crane, 46—were scheduled to be tried in August 2013.[39] They ultimately plead guilty to lesser charges and were sentenced to six and three years in prison.[41]

Monetary settlement


In January 2011 the victim received a $4 million monetary settlement from the school district, with an immediate payout of $2.5 million and the remaining $1.5 million to be paid over the next 40 years.[42]


  1. ^ a b Johnson, Chip (October 30, 2009). "Primitive attack inspires primal reactions". San Francisco Chronicle.
  2. ^ a b "Police: As many as 20 present at gang rape outside school dance". CNN. October 28, 2009. Retrieved November 1, 2009.
  3. ^ Van Derbeken, Jaxon (November 6, 2009). "Richmond rape victim feels betrayed by attacker". San Francisco Chronicle. p. C-1. Retrieved November 7, 2009. The victim previously had been reported to be 15 years old.
  4. ^ a b c Fagan, Kevin (November 1, 2009). "Richmond gang rape seen as nearly inevitable". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved November 1, 2009.
  5. ^ Vega, Cecilia (October 28, 2009). "5 arrested in rape of girl in Richmond". KGO. Archived from the original on October 29, 2009. Retrieved October 28, 2009.
  6. ^ Chen, Stephanie (October 30, 2009). "Gang rape raises questions about bystanders' role". CNN. Retrieved October 30, 2009.
  7. ^ a b Bay City News (February 20, 2019). "Convictions Upheld in Brutal 2009 Gang Rape Outside Richmond High School". NBC Bay Area. Retrieved March 13, 2021.
  8. ^ Henry K. Lee (July 18, 2013). "Richmond gang-rape defendants found guilty". San Francisco Chronicle.
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  12. ^ White, Bobby (July 1, 2010). "Richmond Anti-Violence Effort Falters". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 13, 2010.
  13. ^ Collins, Terry (November 3, 2009). "School moves to tighten security after gang rape". Associated Press. Retrieved November 3, 2009.[dead link]
  14. ^ Lee, Henry K. (November 3, 2009). "Another gang-rape suspect arrested". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved November 3, 2009.
  15. ^ a b c Fischer, Karl; Malaika Fraley (November 10, 2009). "'I thought she was dead for a minute,' Richmond gang-rape witness reports". Contra Costa Times. Retrieved November 11, 2009.
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  17. ^ Martinez, Edecio (November 4, 2009). "Richmond High School Gang-Rape Victim Speaks Out for First Time". CNN. Retrieved November 5, 2009.
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  23. ^ Simon, Dan (December 1, 2009). "6 suspects in high school gang rape enter not guilty pleas". CNN. Retrieved December 1, 2009.
  24. ^ "Bloggers Express Outrage Over Assault". PewResearchCenter Publications. November 5, 2009. Archived from the original on November 8, 2009. Retrieved November 5, 2009.
  25. ^ Fagan, Kevin (November 25, 2009). "Thousands worldwide voice support for raped girl". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved November 25, 2009.
  26. ^ a b Fagan, Kevin; Lee, Henry K. (November 4, 2009). "Violence always the wrong choice". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved November 5, 2009.
  27. ^ Gafni, Matthias (November 1, 2009). "Family of Richmond rape victim speaks out for first time". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved November 1, 2009.
  28. ^ King, John (November 7, 2009). "Richmond march and rally supports rape victim". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved November 7, 2009.
  29. ^ Lobertini, John (November 8, 2009). "Lawmaker Supports Tougher Crime Reporting Law". KTXL. Archived from the original on October 5, 2011. Retrieved November 14, 2009.
  30. ^ Bloom, Anna (November 17, 2009). "Richmond to Honor Teen Who Called Police in Gang Rape". The New York Times. Retrieved November 25, 2009.
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  32. ^ "Judge Throws Out Interview From Gang Rape Case". KTVU. December 20, 2010. Archived from the original on December 23, 2010. Retrieved December 21, 2010.
  33. ^ "Richmond High gang rape hearing down to last two witnesses". San Jose Mercury News. December 20, 2010. Retrieved December 21, 2010.
  34. ^ "DNA found from 4 of 7 Richmond High rape suspects". The Sacramento Bee. December 16, 2010. Retrieved December 21, 2010.[permanent dead link]
  35. ^ "Six of seven defendants in Richmond High gang rape to face trial". Bay City News. December 21, 2010. Retrieved December 22, 2010.[permanent dead link]
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  37. ^ Brown, Julie; Baires, Jennifer (October 19, 2012). "Ortega sentenced for 32 years in Richmond High rape case". Richmond Confidential. Retrieved October 21, 2012.
  38. ^ Fraley, Malaika (January 11, 2013). "San Pablo teen sentenced to 27 years in prison in gang rape case". Contra Costa Times. Bay Area News Group. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  39. ^ a b c d Malaika, Fraley (17 June 2013). "Richmond High gang rape victim takes the stand". Contra Costa Times. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  40. ^ "Richmond Gang Rapists Sentenced To Lengthy Prison Terms". CBS San Francisco. August 15, 2013.
  41. ^ News • •, Bay City (21 February 2019). "Convictions Upheld in Brutal 2009 Gang Rape Outside Richmond High School". NBC Bay Area. Retrieved 2022-11-04.
  42. ^ "Richmond High School gang rape victim gets $4M settlement". ABC News. 21 January 2011. Archived from the original on 8 July 2012. Retrieved 29 August 2019.