A Brooklyn judge on Thursday ordered the release of five teens accused of raping an 18-year-old girl last week at a playground in what investigators have called an increasingly complicated case, reports the New York Daily News.
Travis Beckford, 17; Onandi Brown, 17; Ethan Phillip, 15; Shaquelle Cooper, 15, and Denzel Murray, 14, were ordered released by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Matthew Sciarrino. Cooper, however, will remain in custody on a pending assault charge, the report says.
Besides other issues in the case, neither the woman nor her father could identify any of the teens in a police lineup, writes the news outlet.
District Attorney Kenneth Thompson raised no objections to the judge’s order, while defense attorneys for the suspects applauded the decision.
“Because we are determined to get to the truth about what happened in that park, we need more time to investigate this complex case and gather more evidence,” Thompson said. “Therefore, we have consented to the defendants’ release.”
“Straight out of the gate, the case wasn’t solid,” she said.
Spencer Leeds, lawyer for Brown, who had been ordered held on $25,000 bond, also applauded the move.
The New York Timesreports that “prosecutors have less than a week from the time a suspect is arrested on a felony charge to obtain a grand-jury indictment. If prosecutors do not make that deadline, the suspects must be released from jail. The prosecutor then has six months to obtain an indictment.”
The case rankled residents in Brownsville, Brooklyn, where the incident allegedly occurred, and throughout the city. Reports initially surfaced that five men had approached the teen at Osborn Playground on Jan. 7, brandished a gun, ordered the father to leave, and then proceeded to gang rape the woman, writes The Times:
Later, the police began investigating other claims after the suspects were arrested. Among them: Some of the defendants told detectives that the father and daughter were having sex when the suspects found them.
Additionally, a brother of one of the defendants showed a reporter a cellphone video that he said was taken just before the encounter, showing the victim sitting against a playground wall and mumbling. “If you said yeah, it’s lit, like, you know what I mean,” a male voice says. “I could tell you a freak.” The defendant’s brother argued that this showed the sex was consensual.