SALEM — Four Salem High School students have been charged in the violent gang rape of a 17-year-old girl who thought they were giving her a ride home after a basketball game in Lynn, prosecutors said.
Luis Arias, Rafael Nina-Brito and Harold Baltodano, all 18, and Justin Louf, 17, each pleaded not guilty to aggravated rape, a felony that could carry a life sentence, at their arraignments Tuesday in Lynn District Court, where they were ordered held on $10,000 cash bail each. It was unclear whether any of the suspects made bail.
The four are due back in court on March 11 for a probable cause hearing.
The incident started after the girl attended a basketball game at Lynn English High School with a girlfriend Friday night, then went to the other girl's house, where she called several friends trying to find a ride home to Salem, a prosecutor said during a hearing yesterday in Salem Superior Court, where one of the teens was appealing his bail.
Eventually, she was offered a ride home by Baltodano, an acquaintance, who was with some friends.
At some point while at her friend's home, the girl drank some Hennessey cognac and some Hpnotiq, a flavored liqueur, and got into a minivan, according to the prosecutor's account. She was seated between Nina-Brito and Baltodano, both of Lynn, with Arias at the wheel and Louf in the front passenger seat. Arias and Louf both live in Salem.
The girl knew who Arias was because she had seen him at school, she told police. She did not know the other two.
As she rode, she began feeling the effects of the alcohol, she told police. Then one of the teens allegedly pulled out some marijuana, which she acknowledged trying once when it was offered to her.
The girl said the men spoke to each other in Spanish as she asked repeatedly to be taken home.
Instead, the teens told her to be quiet, she said, and drove her to the home of Nina-Brito, who lives near Baltodano.
The girl told police that the teens helped her walk into the house, telling her they would be there just a short time. Once inside, they took off their clothes and then hers and threw her onto a mattress in a dark, sparsely furnished room, she said.
When her cell phone rang — she later learned it was her girlfriend, who was concerned that the girl wasn't home yet — Arias grabbed the phone and told the caller that she was busy and couldn't come to the phone, then threw it, according to the Lynn police report.
The girl said the four teens grabbed and groped her, calling her derogatory names and trying to force her mouth open. Arias repeatedly referred to the girl with a derogatory term and said she was angering him by not cooperating, according to the report.
Three of the teens then proceeded to rape the girl, prosecutor Melissa Woodard said. When the girl tried to speak, Arias put a pillow over her head and demanded that she shut up, according to police reports.
After she complained repeatedly that she had to get home, they threw her clothing at her and helped her get dressed, she said. She said she waited for a few minutes outside and heard the four say they needed to find "another (expletive)."
Her friend called and told the men to bring her to her friend's house. But she said she was still unsure how to get home from there and fearful that her mother would see her drunk, so she decided to stay at her friend's house and eventually fell asleep.
At some point, the girl said she woke up to use the bathroom and realized that she was bleeding and that her clothing was covered in blood. At first, she insisted she was fine and continued trying to find a way to get home so she could go to work later.
It was a friend's mother who suggested they go to the hospital.
Following their arrests, two of the teens, Baltodano and Nina-Brito, gave statements. Nina-Brito told investigators that he had been unable to physically penetrate the girl, Woodard told a judge yesterday.
Baltodano allegedly corroborated most of what the girl said — but added that he didn't recall her saying no, the prosecutor said.
Woodard, during a hearing on Louf's bail yesterday, suggested that the $50,000 bail originally sought by prosecutors at Tuesday's arraignment in Lynn was appropriate, given the "horrific nature" of the facts.
John Appruzzese, a lawyer representing Louf yesterday, said the $10,000 set on Tuesday by Judge Albert Conlon was already beyond the reach of Louf's family, who attended the hearing.
Appruzzese described Louf as an athlete who plays football and lacrosse and runs track and said the teen was applying to colleges.
When Salem Superior Court Judge Howard Whitehead rejected the request to lower Louf's bail, his mother began sobbing loudly.
Asked whether the school would suspend the suspects, Salem High Principal David Angeramo said, "We're looking into the situation and will take action if we feel it is appropriate and necessary."
Staff writer Bruno Matarazzo Jr. contributed to this report.