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October 29, 2002

Hearing held in rapes of disabled

From: Boston Globe, MA
Oct. 29, 2002

By Douglas Belkin and Farah Stockman, Globe Staff, 10/29/2002

In a crime that shocked prosecutors and school officials, three Salvadoran immigrants were arraigned yesterday on charges they raped two disabled teenage girls in Somerville last week. The assaults were not random but retaliatory, according to the mother of one victim - to get back at a brother of one of the victims.

The victims are both deaf, ages 14 and 17, and one uses a wheelchair.

The mother of one victim said, ''My daughter's got cerebral palsy, she's deaf. How can someone do something like that?'' according to WCVB-TV.

Prosecutors told Somerville District Court Judge Paul Heffernan that the three men first saw the girls last Thursday around 7 p.m. near a doughnut shop on Broadway Street. They allegedly followed them into Foss Park and attacked them.

Afterward, the girls made it home and called police, supplying descriptions that led to the arrests last Friday and Saturday of Jose Ortiz, 20, Jesus Pleitez, 19, and Carlos Escobar, 18. Three other suspects are still being sought, prosecutors said.

Ortiz, Pleitez, and Escobar pleaded not guilty yesterday to two counts of aggravated rape, two counts of indecent assault and battery on a person 14 or older, and one count of rape of a child, according to the Middlesex district attorney's office. Ortiz and Escobar were held on $50,000 bail, and Pleitez was held on $100,000 bail.

The mother of one of the victims told Channel 5 yesterday that the rapes were committed in retaliation for a fight one of the girls' brothers was having with the three men.

''It's gotta stop. It's gotta stop,'' the woman told WCVB-TV.

''I mean, if you're that low, to go and rape a handicap girl, OK, in a wheelchair, then, there's something wrong with you.''

A law enforcement official who asked not to be identified said the three men are affiliated with MS-13, a Salvadoran gang that has been linked to several violent crimes in the Boston area, as well as smuggling illegal immigrants.

Gang-related graffiti have been on the rise in the city, particularly in East Somerville, prompting a meeting in the past month to focus on the problem, said School Committee Chairman Dennis Sullivan.

Sullivan said the attacks have rocked the city.

''I think it's awful, it's shocking; it's tragic that it happens in the city, and I feel awful about it,'' Sullivan said.

Thomas Pyne, a court-appointed attorney for Escobar, said last night that his client was a recent immigrant from El Salvador (as are his codefendants), and speaks little English. Escobar has no record besides a trespassing charge, Pyne said.

''I've heard that gang thing mentioned a few times today but the prosecutor didn't mention that in court, and I have no idea where it came from,'' Pyne said.

This story ran on page B2 of the Boston Globe on 10/29/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.