Five teen defendants arrested in Brooklyn rape case are released as investigation continues
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson has ordered the release of the five teenage defendants in the rape of a girl at a Brooklyn playground as the investigation into the murky case continues.
The five defendants in the case — Travis Beckford, 17; Onandi Brown, 17; Ethan Phillip, 15; Shaquelle Cooper, 15; and Denzel Murray, 14 — will be released if they have not already made bail.
“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.”
Spencer Leeds, the lawyer for Brown, who was ordered held on $25,000 bond, applauded the move.
“Mr. Thompson did a very decent thing by calling and agreeing to have him cut from prison before the family put a bail package together,” Leeds said.
“We believe after a full and fair investigation is complete, Onandi will be exonerated.”
Meanwhile, the twists and turns of the case have even Police Commissioner Bill Bratton thinking investigators haven’t yet gotten to the bottom of it.
The five teens are charged with rape and assault in the alleged January 7 attack on an 18-year-old woman in Brownsville’s Osborn playground. But the case has appeared to weaken in recent days.
“The first story is never the last story,” Bratton said Thursday. “I think in this case that’s certainly the case or will prove to be the case.”
Bratton didn’t elaborate on how he expects the story to change, but said detectives are reviewing a cell phone video, taken by one of the accused teens.
“It’s 9 to 11 seconds. I believe it’s been retrieved from one of the cell phones of the young men being investigated in this matter,” he said. “It is a significant piece of evidence as we try to piece together what happened.”
Relatives of one of the young suspects have said the video suggests the sex was consensual.
Bratton said he’s been in contact with Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.
“I spoke at length with Ken yesterday as that case is going forward so we’ll just have to wait over the next several days as the interviews continue and they try to put together exactly what happened,” he said.
Detectives have yet to receive the results of a rape kit, he said. It could take more than a week for the testing to be finished.
Initial reports in the case described a horrific scene in which a young woman was raped at gunpoint by the five teens while her father desperately searched for a police officer.
However, two of the teens claimed they saw the father having sex with the girl as they approached. They said their sex with her was consensual. In addition, neither the father nor the daughter could pick out any of the five teens in lineups.
And then there was the video.
The case has also been fraught with claims that the NYPD failed to tell the public in a timely manner.
Lawyers for the youths have compared the case to the 1989 prosecution of the Central Park Five, in which black teens were wrongly convicted of rape.
“The prosecution’s case is getting weaker, not stronger,” said 17-year-old suspect Travis Beckford’s lawyer, Debbie Silberman, on Wednesday.
Denzel Murray, front, Ethan Phillip and Shaquell Cooper, three of five suspects in the rape of an 18-year-old woman on Saturday, were led into Central Booking on Schermerhorn Street in Brookyn