4 allegedly gang-raped girl, 14, in Stickney

January 13, 2011 8:15:18 PM PST
Prosecutors say three Stickney teenagers and a Cicero man are accused of raping a 14-year-old girl.

The suspects allegedly gang-raped the teenager while recording the attacks on cell phones.

The victim was taken to MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn where she was treated and released.

The rape allegedly happened on the 3900-block of Wesley in Stickney on January 8.

Prosecutors charged Jonathan Leanos, 19; Alex Picallo, 16; Vicente Hernandez, 22; and Majeed Khalifeh, 18, with two counts each of aggravated criminal sexual assault. They say Leanos allegedly met the victim online on MySpace last summer and saw her a few times before the assault happened.

Police say Leanos asked the victim to have sex with him. When she refused, Leanos took the victim's cell phone and forced her to have sex. Leanos then took the girl and drove to pick up two friends, Khalifeh and Hernandez. The three returned to Leanos' house and were met by Picallo, Stickney police say.

Leanos then told the victim to have sex with his friends, while cell phones were used to videotape the assaults, police say. After the attack, police say she was dropped off near her home. Then her parents contacted law enforcement.

"Surprising, shocking, pretty much the way I can phrase it. I've really never seen anything like it," said Det. Cruz Ortiz, Stickney Police Dept.

"Very alarming to see what occurred, and let alone the fact that it occurred and they decided to film it and retain those films," said Det. Richard Jaczak, Stickney Police Dept .

Vicente Hernandez appeared in bond court Thursday afternoon in Bridgeview. He shook his head repeatedly and denied the accusations. Hernandez flashed obscene gestures as he was whisked to court from the Stickney police station.

Court heard all the defendants sexually assaulted the girl -- sometimes individually and sometimes in tandem, all the while capturing the crime on cell phone video. The victim allegedly pleaded with Hernandez that she was just 14, and in response he allegedly broke her cell phone before raping her.

Hernandez's lawyer said his client is a father of two young girls, has two full time jobs and is not guilty.

"I don't think anybody should make up their minds. This is a young man who is presumed not guilty. And he is entitled to a trial and nobody should make up their minds," said Marco Raimondi, Hernandez's lawyer. "He is a nice young man, a hardworking young man and the issue is whether he is guilty of the accusations that was proffered in court and he is not guilty."

Hernandez's family defends him, saying, at 22, he's the oldest suspect and that police and the younger suspects are trying to pin him for the crime.

"Obviously they're going to gang up on him. They probably have some deal going on, like we'll cut your time in half or whatever. You know how police work," said Felix Hernandez, brother.

Relatives say Hernandez is a legal clerk who supports his family.

"I just want to say he's innocent because my cousin ain't the type of man to be doing that to any kids. He's married, he has kids, hard working man," said Tony Hernandez, cousin.

Leanos' brother says the facts are being misinterpreted.

"There was a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship here. I believe so. I would see her here. But I guess that's not how it turned out to be," said brother Jose Leanos. "This whole situation is a mix up. I just hope it turns out to unscramble itself the way it should be and I hope the truth really comes out."

Neighbors were disgusted by the news, saying all the suspects hung out on the block but never caused trouble.

"I'm sick about it. I am. All summer they walked back, forth, back forth, very friendly boys. I mean I don't know them personally, but I'm sick," said neighbor Sue Delfiacco.

Experts who work with rape survivors emphasize the importance of educating young men.

"I would be talking to them about respect. I would be talking to them about courage and strength, and what it takes to do the right thing when the people close to you are doing the wrong thing," said Jeannette Castellanos Butt, director of YWCA Sexual Assault Services.

Authorities say no parents were home when the attacks allegedly occurred. They would not say if any of the suspects have confessed.

Police say three of the suspects have had run-ins with the law in the past.

Picallo's bail was set at $500,000; bail for Khalifeh is $600,000; bail for Leanos was set at $750,000; and on Thursday, bail was set for Hernandez at $600,000. All four suspects are in custody after failing to post bond.