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January 16, 2009

Four charged in California hate-crime gang rape

Associated Press

Martinez, Calif.--Two men and two teen were charged in the alleged gang rape of a San Francisco Bay area woman, an incident that has sparked protests and an outpouring of support for the 28-year-old woman.

Prosecutors on January 6 charged 31-year-old Humberto Hernandez Salvador of Richmond and 21-year-old Josue Gonzalez, who has Richmond and San Rafael addresses, with kidnapping, carjacking and gang rape in last month's attack.

The pair did not enter pleas when they appeared in Contra Costa County Superior Court but asked the court to appoint attorneys to represent them. Salvador was being held at Contra Costa County jail in lieu of $2.2 million bail. Gonzalez's bail was set at $1.9 million.

They could be sentenced to life in prison if found guilty, prosecutors said.

Darrell Hodges, 16, was charged as an adult with similar offenses Monday. A 15-year-old boy whose name has not been released was also arrested last week on suspicion of participating in the Richmond attack.

Hate-crime enhancements were added to charges against Salvador, which could mean a more severe sentence if he is convicted.

Authorities say the woman was taunted for being lesbian during the 45-minute assault. Salvador was also charged with being armed with a gun.

The woman, who lives with her partner, was attacked on December 13 after she got out of her car which had a rainbow gay pride sticker, according to investigators.

She was raped multiple times inside and outside the vehicle and left naked outside an abandoned building while the alleged assailants took her wallet and drove off in her car, police said.

The brutality of the attack shook even seasoned investigators in Richmond, a city of about 100,000 across the bay from San Francisco with one of California's highest homicide rates. Police say they have received hundreds of calls from across the country offering money and support for the woman.

�The crimes that were committed at face value were shocking,� Richmond police Lt. Mark Gagan said. �But when it was revealed there was also a hate crime enhancement, it really prompted outcry.�

The case has galvanized gay equal rights advocates and bloggers to seize on the attack to highlight violence against gays and lesbians. Supporters have also been working to raise money for the woman, her partner and her daughter as they deal with the trauma of the attack.

�The idea that a peace-loving lesbian was minding her own business, was attacked and gang-raped is an outrage. And people are stepping forward,� said Betty Sullivan of San Francisco, who runs a web site and email list publicizing gay and lesbian events.

Sullivan is publicizing several benefits to raise money for the woman, known among her supporters as Richmond Jane Doe. She says the support is being driven not just by anger but by a sense among gays and lesbians that they too could have been targets.

�We know it could have been any of us,� Sullivan said.

Wen Minkoff of Oakland is organizing of a swing-dance benefit later this month. She said the passage of California's same-sex marriage ban in November has spurred more active involvement in issues affecting gays and lesbians.

Money raised at the benefit will go to both Richmond Jane Doe and the effort to overturn the ban.

�I think there's a lot of motivation in the wake of having these fundamental rights taken away,� Minkoff said. ����������


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