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Charges reduced in teen rape case

By Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / April 20, 1998

HAHNVILLE – Charges against a group of St. Charles Parish teen-agersaccused of gang-raping a 15-year-old St. Rose girl have been reduced, butinvestigators are still looking for a videotape allegedly made during one of the sexual encounters.

Charges for all 11 of the youths booked for allegedly raping the girl were reduced Tuesday afternoon, a move which permitted bail reduction and release of all on personal surety bonds.

Arraignment on the new charges is set May 11.

Originally charged with aggravated rape, the charges for eight of the 11 youths were changed to carnal knowledge of a juvenile, a difference between a possible life sentence, if convicted, to a maximum 10 years in prison. Three others face a charge of sexual battery.The move came two days prior to a scheduled grand jury hearing on the matter and on the same day two additional arrests had been made.

The latest arrests were those of Reynard Evers, 17, 712 Mockingbird Lane, St. Rose, and Wendell Mitchell, 19, 272 Meadows Drive, Destrehan. Theoriginal charges for each was one count of aggravated rape.

Those arrested earlier include Kentrell Jenkins, 18, Destrehan; Leonard F.

Harris, 17, St. Rose; Joseph H. Johnson III, 17, St. Rose; Dwayne A. Donald,17, St. Rose; Wendell Smith, 18, New Sarpy; Cleophus Greene, 17, St. Rose;Lance Carter, 18, New Sarpy; Jose Hipkiss, 18, Destrehan; and a 16-year- old St. Rose male, not named because of his age.As a result of the district attorney’s office investigation, the charges were reduced to one count of carnal knowledge of a juvenile, carrying a maximum sentence, if convicted, of 10 years in prison, for Evers, Mitchell, Harris, Donald, Smith, Carter and Hipkiss. Jenkins’ charges were changedto three counts carnal knowledge of a juvenile.

Also, the charges for Johnson, Greene and the 16-year-old were reduced to one count of sexual battery, carrying a maximum sentence, if convicted, of 10 years In prison.

Harris, Johnson and Donald are still charged with pornography involving juveniles, carrying a maximum penalty, if convicted, of 10 years in prison.

No police or court official would comment on the case, citing the April 8 gag order issued by 29th Judicial District Judge Kirk Granier.

According to initial police accounts, the alleged victim’s boyfriend picked her up on Jan. 30,, drove her to a New Sarpy address and reportedly hadconsensual sex with her. Afterward, the boyfriend left the room andreturned with five other teen-agers, three of whom reportedly had sex with the girl while two others watched.

After that incident, reports say, the girl was taken to an apartment in the Charlestowne area of St. Rose, lured there with the promise of beingallowed to take a shower. There, she reported to police she endured rapesby three other males before she was returned home.

Four days later, she said, she was again picked up by her boyfriend and this time taken to an address in the Ormond area. There, she claimed topolice, she was reportedly raped by four other males, after which they “kicked her out” and she ran home.

The victim claimed she tried to resist the rapes but was forcibly held down and made to submit. However, she did not call police to report theincidents until Feb. 16.Twenty-ninth Judicial District Attorney Harry Morel has offered a $500 reward for the videotape allegedly made during one encounter, and Assistant District Attorney Kim McAfee, said the offer still stands.

Anyone with a copy of the tape is urged to contact Morel’s office at 783- 6263 to arrange the exchange, cash for the tape, no questions asked.

The tape was reportedly passed around at Destrehan High School, but no copy has come into police hands.

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