A lawyer for Skateworks said Thursday that there are "inconsistencies" in a 12-year-old girl's account of a gang rape she says she endured at the Woodlawn roller rink last Saturday. The attorney's implication that the girl might have been at least partly to blame for what occurred was immediately assailed by victims-rights advocates.
Paul W. Gardner, who represents the rink's owners, released images from surveillance video taken in the Skateworks building that he said indicate the girl willingly accompanied two of the three males later accused of assaulting her in a small storage room.
"She may have contributed to going into that room," Gardner said, noting that he did not take issue with the girl's claim that "something happened" there. While he said he could not be sure whether the girl had lied, Gardner said she made "misleading" assertions in a police interview, including her claim that she was "dragged" into the room.
"It's disgusting to think that a 12-year-old girl could in any way take the blame for being gang-raped," said Steven D. Silverman, a criminal-defense lawyer in Baltimore who took issue with Gardner's strategy. "To come out swinging only intensifies the anger toward your client."
The incident could increase pressure on Baltimore County officials to step up a review of Skateworks' compliance with an April agreement that allowed it to remain open. The rink, which had long been the subject of complaints about rowdiness and disturbances, was on the verge of being closed by code enforcement inspectors but received a last-minute reprieve.
"If there are management errors that took place, it may be something for code enforcement" to pursue, said Kevin Kamenetz, a County Council member and candidate for county executive. He said he is awaiting an update on the case from Police Chief James W. Johnson.
Defenders of victims' rights decried Gardner's suggestion that the girl had been less than truthful about the circumstances of Saturday's incident, which resulted in first-degree rape charges and five other counts against Kadeem R. Santiful, 17; Tracey W. Hankins, 15; and Davon Perry, 24.
"There's victim-blaming in this attorney's statement," said Sharmili Majmudar, executive director of Rape Victim Advocates, a Chicago-based nonprofit agency that provides assistance and counsel to rape victims. "Impugning the victim's statement, but at the same saying he believes that something happened, are two contradictory things. This girl — she just turned 12 — showed a lot of courage in coming forward and reporting the crime."
Majmudar said that, given FBI statistics indicating that only 10 percent of sexual assaults are reported nationwide, "it's really incumbent on us to provide an atmosphere in which victims are encouraged to come forward and are believed." In questioning the girl's statement, Majmudar said, Gardner is "embarking on what is actually the police's responsibility, which is to investigate and charge the crime."
Police charging documents quote the two accused teenagers as acknowledging some sexual activity with the girl, but they both told police they did not use force. The older man maintained that he was not involved in the incident. The girl told a detective that all three "made me do it."
Gardner concluded from the tapes that none of the accused had pushed or pulled the girl anywhere, and that the three males were never in the room at the same time. The lawyer's claims contradict the girl's assertion that they took turns holding her down and raping her.
But Gardner showed only edited clips of the video, lasting a few minutes, despite a police report's description of the assault as having lasted about 20 minutes. In addition, the images show only the doorway of a larger room that leads to the storage space where the girl said the rape occurred, and not the entrance to the smaller room.
Under questioning by reporters, Gardner conceded that it was possible that the girl might have been coerced after she and the accused were outside camera range. He also acknowledged that there was no way of knowing whether any of the suspects had used a second entrance to the storage room, because it was not covered by video surveillance.
The grainy video, Gardner said, shows the 12-year-old and a girlfriend walking down a hallway before the assault, followed by the two teenage boys. At one point, Hankins can be seen with his arm around the girl as they proceed through a doorway, although it was unclear whether he was using any force.
Perry is seen leaning against an adjacent doorframe. As the couple passes, he takes a step toward them, then appears to retreat. The attorney said the video shows that Perry did not enter the room with the others, but he did not show any other video of the 24-year-old. Gardner said the video proved that both girls entered and left the room together, although the heavy editing of the video shown to reporters made that claim impossible to establish.
Baltimore County Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder, Kamenetz's rival for the Democratic nomination for county executive, said it was crucial to let police complete their investigation into the incident and "listen to what they have to say about recommendations" for Skateworks' future. Until then, he added, it was not clear what action the county could take against the skating rink.
Baltimore Sun reporters Mary Gail Hare and Arthur Hirsch contributed to this article.
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