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Video Clears Teens in Playground Gang Rape, Defense Attorneys Claim

By  John Santore Trevor Kapp and Aidan Gardiner | January 13, 2016 12:05pm 

 Kenneth Montgomery, left, and Spencer Leeds, right, said video shows their client didn't rape an 18-year-old woman.
Kenneth Montgomery, left, and Spencer Leeds, right, said video shows their client didn't rape an 18-year-old woman.
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DNAinfo/John Santore

BROOKLYN — Defense lawyers for the teens accused of gang raping a young woman in a Brownsville playground claim video taken by one of the suspects shows that she consented to having sex.

In the cellphone video, the 18-year-old woman is seen sitting on the ground wearing a green tank top with her pants partially off.

She is smiling, but appears somewhat dazed.

Young men are standing around her laughing and shining a light on her.

"If you saying, 'Yeah, it's lit,' I could tell you a freak," a boy can be heard saying off camera.

The woman, however, doesn't consent to sex or say anything else.

DNAinfo New York obtained the 12-second clip but has not published it to protect the identity of the victim.

She is the only person who appears in the video, which is mostly pitch black, other than what appears to be a dog.

Lawyers for Onandi Brown, 17, and Denzel Murray, 14, both claimed Tuesday after their client's arraignment the video proves that the woman consented to having sex with their clients and three other teens in Osborn Playground about 9:10 p.m. Jan. 7.

The lawyers painted portraits of their clients as sympathetic high schoolers and said the video shows that the five teens did not rape and injure the young woman as police and prosecutors have said.

The young woman, who had been drinking with her father in the park beforehand, was treated for bruises and cuts to her back, knees and elbows, police said.

Four of the boys — Brown and Murray along with Ethan Phillip, 15, and Shaquell Cooper, 15 — were arrested Sunday and arraigned Tuesday night on rape, criminal sex act, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct and forcible touching charges, officials said.

A fifth teen, Travis Beckford, 17, was arrested and charged Tuesday and arraigned Wednesday night, officials said. His parents and several teachers were in court when the judge remanded him on a $2,500 bond, his lawyer said.

Two of the other boys told investigators that the young woman had been having sex with her father when they encountered her in the park, which their attorneys have seized on to try to discredit the victim.

"The case is getting weaker by the minute," said Brown's lawyer, Spencer Leeds.

Leeds claimed the young woman has recanted her accusation and the lawyer cast doubt that the father is biologically related to her. The attorney also suggested that the father's behavior in the incident seems to disprove that she was raped.

The father, who admitted he was drunk at the time, told police that the teens pulled a gun on him and forced him to leave his daughter with them, officials said. He then walked into two nearby delis asking for people's phones, only to be rebuffed, witnesses said.

The dad, who had only recently reconnected with the young woman who was sent to a foster home when she was 2, eventually found NYPD officers who returned to the scene with him after the teens had fled, police said. 

During the Tuesday arraignment, defense attorneys tried to portray their clients as upstanding high school students.

Cooper, who has a 9-year-old brother, hopes to parlay an interest in science into a career and is expecting a child with his girlfriend in May, his lawyer, Vivian Intermont, said.

Her client, however, was arrested for attempted murder after participating in a beating in which was hit over the head with a baseball bat in the Rockaway Parkway subway station Oct. 7, 2015, prosecutors said. Cooper punched and kicked the victim's face and body along with two other attackers, prosecutors said.

The victim in that case suffered "extreme swelling to the head" and Cooper was released to a therapy program, which he didn't attend, prosecutors said.

Phillip, whose brother showed DNAinfo the video, is also a high school student on two basketball teams with a carpenter father and stay-at-home mom, his attorney said. His family expects him home on bail by Wednesday night, they said.

Brown, who attends the Cultural Academy of Arts and Sciences, has been the victim of bullying, his attorney said.

Kenneth Murray, Brown's lawyer, said his client was also a high school student and has no criminal history.

The lawyer hopes the "DA looks at the evidence before they ruin several peoples' lives."

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated prosecutors' accusations about Shaquell Cooper's role in an Oct. 7 assault. They said he punched and kicked the victim.