Witness Tells Court About Gang Rape in MS-13 Trial

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 29, 2006

The petite young woman was a 16-year-old Laurel High School student three years ago when she decided to skip classes one day to join two other girls at a party at a Hyattsville apartment.

At the party, she said, Oscar Ramos "Casper" Velasquez took her into a bedroom, where he kissed her and told her that if she didn't have sex with him, as many as 15 other teenagers and young men at the gathering would have sex with her.

When she resisted, two more young men entered the room, the woman told jurors yesterday in federal court. One man threw her on the bed and choked her, the other held down her arms and "Oscar pulled out a gun," she testified.

"He put it to my head, and he said if I didn't shut up, he was going to kill me," the woman told jurors.

Eight men raped her, the 19-year-old woman said. Two assaulted her simultaneously. Outside the room, she said, she heard one man say, "Five minutes each."

The graphic testimony about the May 12, 2003, assault was given in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, where Velasquez, 21, of Baltimore, and Edgard Alberto "Pony" Ayala, 28, of Suitland, are on trial on federal racketeering charges.

They are the first two of 19 alleged members of Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, who are to be tried under the federal RICO law. In an indictment handed up last year, and in two later indictments, federal prosecutors say that the gang conspired to commit murder, rape and other crimes.

The young woman's appearance represented the first direct testimony about violence allegedly committed by MS-13 members. Prosecutors say she is one of two teenage girls sexually assaulted at the Hyattsville party.

During nearly three hours on the witness stand, the woman, a Salvadoran immigrant, maintained her poise as she testified through a translator. She did not appear to look at Velasquez, seated about 20 feet away.

The Washington Post does not identify victims of sexual assault without their consent.

Under direct examination by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra Wilkinson, the woman said that after Velasquez threatened her with the gun, another man came in and threatened her with a stick. As she continued to cry and plead to be left alone, yet another man came into the room and said, "I'll go first," she said.

The other four left the room, and the new man raped her, the woman testified.

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