Housemates claim rape never occurred

Friends, relatives claim
it was sex for sale

Staff Writer

Friends, relatives claim
it was sex for sale
Staff Writer

JOYCE BLAY Friends, relatives and housemates of seven men charged with rape paint a different picture of what happened in the basement of this house on Dewey Street, Lakewood.JOYCE BLAY Friends, relatives and housemates of seven men charged with rape paint a different picture of what happened in the basement of this house on Dewey Street, Lakewood.

Seven Mexican immigrants were arrested and charged July 13 in the rape of a woman at a rental house in Lakewood.

Those are the facts, but not necessarily the truth, according to two men who were there that night but were not arrested, as well as the brother of one man who is still in jail.

Authorities claim that on the night of July 13, the 33-year-old white woman from Lakewood had been invited into the home and then changed her mind about staying, but was not allowed to leave the home. Authorities claim the men took the woman to the basement of the home, where all of the men accosted her sexually.

At a meeting arranged by Ada Gonzalez, an advocate of Lakewood’s Hispanic community, and held on Sept. 2 with a reporter from the Tri-Town News present, the three men discussed the events of that night.

The men include Leonel Lozano, 24, the older brother of Sergio Lozano, the 17-year-old juvenile charged in the matter; Cirilo Morales, 23; and Hugo Ortega, 22, both of whom live at 314 Dewey Street, where the incident took place.

The men spoke little or no English. Gonzalez acted as translator.

According to Morales, several individ­uals approached the men as they sat on the porch of the house and asked them if they wanted to buy sexual services. The first to approach the men was a pimp, who asked if they wanted a woman. The men said yes and the pimp went off to get one.

In the meantime, a prostitute — the woman who later charged some of the residents of the house with raping her — stopped by and asked the men if they wanted to purchase her services.

Robert Gasser of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office told the Tri-Town News in July that the woman spoke no Spanish, and had come to the house to visit a friend.

"She was barefoot, with a bottle of beer in her hand," said Morales. "A black guy went by and she tried to hit him with the beer bottle. That’s why [the men] thought she was drunk."

Morales said he also thought she was on drugs.

"The woman is a known prostitute in the neighborhood," said Lozano. "She saw a porch full of men, so she ap­proached them to ask if they wanted her services."

Eventually, five men at the house agreed to purchase her services, at $15 each, to be provided one at a time in the home’s basement, which is accessed by a flight of outside stairs that descend from the side of the house to its firmament, where the basement door is located. A large tree growing in front of the house shields the entrance stairway from view.

The dank, L-shaped room is lit at one end by a single light bulb, but as Morales and Ortega showed a reporter on a sub­sequent visit to the home, the section where the five men had each been with the prostitute was a recessed corner where little light was available to illu­minate the darkness that obscured it once the door to the room was closed.

Once the woman had completed her business with the men, she emerged from the basement just as the pimp re­turned with a woman that Morales said appeared to be four or five months preg­nant. He said the woman was wearing a cropped top that exposed her belly. According to the men, the pimp was en­raged to learn that an interloper had stolen his business.

"The black man started to argue" with the woman who had provided the ser­vices, said Morales.

Morales said that during the con­frontation, the pimp kept tugging at the prostitute’s elastic pants waistband as she tried to walk away. He said he sus­pected that the pimp had taken the woman’s money during their exchange, although he did not actually see the theft in the dark.

"When she left the house after having serviced the men, she appeared to be happy and kept patting her pants pocket to feel the billfold," said Lozano. "After the argument with the black man, she kept looking for her money."

The prostitute returned to the house, demanding the money she claimed the men at the house had stolen from her. Morales said she ignored the pimp and his prostitute as they stood on the cor­ner, watching her.

"She came back, crying, and de­manded her money," said Morales, who volunteered to escort the woman back to the basement, where she searched fruit­lessly for her missing money.

In the meantime, a black prostitute on bicycle came by to also offer her ser­vices to the men, whom Gonzalez said no longer had money to spend on sex. After the black prostitute heard the commo­tion from below, she left.

After failing to find the missing money, the prostitute took out her cell phone and called the police, said Morales. He realized what she was doing, but thought she was calling the police to charge the men with theft, not rape. After she fin­ished her call, she left the premises.

"The police found her on the corner, screaming," said Morales, who said the people on the second floor of the house could see what was happening from their vantage point. He said that before the police came, a Peruvian man walked by, saw the prostitute without her top and kept walking.

Morales said the police officers found the prostitute with her top — a cropped, animal print with spaghetti straps — rolled up over her chest. One of the offi­cers handed her his jacket.

"She told the police she was raped," said Morales. "The men said they paid her, but because the police didn’t find any money on her, they believed her."

The woman was put into the ambu­lance that had accompanied the respond­ing police officers and she was driven in it to the house in the middle of the block. One by one, each man in the house was presented to the woman for identifica­tion, including Morales.

When asked why the woman did not accuse him of rape, too, Morales said, "It was a miracle!"

As each man was presented to her, the prostitute was asked if that man had touched her. An American woman fluent in Spanish translated for the police.

There were 10 men in the house. Out of 10, said Morales, the police took seven of them, including his two brothers — Carlos Morales, 22, and Ernesto Palacio Morales, 32, who lives in Freehold.

"He [Ernesto] doesn’t drink and he works," said Morales. "He had been talk­ing to her, but had not solicited her ser­vices. He is a roofing supervisor and knew more English than the others she accused. Because he could speak English, the police lowered the charges (to molestation)," said Morales.

Lozano said his younger brother re­ceived deportation papers after being charged with rape, and Morales con­firmed that all the men had received them, too.

The only defendant whose family was able to provide him with a Spanish-speaking attorney was Dimas Teidoro Mendez, 18, who is not a resident of the house but lives in Lakewood. His attor­ney, Carlos A. Ferreira of Lakewood, de­clined to discuss the case.

The other men have been assigned a public defender, none of which speak Spanish, according to Gonzalez.

"The men have not even appeared in court, but the [immigration service] is already involved," said Gonzalez, refer­ring to the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a divi­sion of the federal Department of Homeland Security.

But according to Bill Riley, acting as­sociate special agent in charge of the Investigations Division at the ICE, that is just business as usual for his depart­ment.

"We prioritize national security and public security — we decide who is the worst of the worst," said Riley. "These people were charged with rape. We wouldn’t want someone walking the street that has been convicted of rape. Just because they’re not convicted of a crime doesn’t mean they’re not remov­able for violating immigration laws."

Whether or not the men are exoner­ated of the charges, they will still have to fight deportation charges.

Despite their status and those of the arrested men as undocumented, illegal workers, Morales, Lozano and Ortega questioned who other than illegals would do the menial jobs the Mexicans per­formed if they were all deported home tomorrow.

They also said they had learned a valuable lesson as a result of the inci­dent.

"Now when they see prostitutes, they chase them away — even the black woman on the bike," said Gonzalez.

The others charged in the incident are Sixto Carista Ramirez, 20, of Lakewood, Juan Agular Cortez, 26, of Freehold, and Ezequiel Soriano Ramirez, 19, of Freehold.