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Here's What We Know About the Brownsville Rape Case

By  Aidan Gardiner and Ben Fractenberg | January 19, 2016 9:50am | Updated on February 24, 2016 7:54pm

 Charges were dropped against five teens accused of raping a woman in Osborn Playground on Jan. 7, prosecutors said.
Charges were dropped against five teens accused of raping a woman in Osborn Playground on Jan. 7, prosecutors said.
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DNAinfo/Trevor Kapp

BROOKLYN — Charges were dropped against five teenagers accused of raping an 18-year-old woman at gunpoint in a Brownsville playground on Jan. 7 in a case that first drew outrage from community leaders and eventually led to details emerging about the young woman engaging in sexual conduct with her father and then recanting her accusations against the teens.

Many of the most basic facts of the case have changed — sometimes significantly — from the time police officers first found the young woman in the park.

Here is what we know about the case:

► Where did it happen?

Prosecutors said the attack took place in Osborn Playground at Osborn Street and Hegeman Avenue in Brownsville. The area, which falls within the NYPD's 73rd Precinct, has some of the highest crime rates in the city.

Osborn Playground

The alleged gunpoint rape of an 18-year-old woman at a Brooklyn playground by five teen boys has drawn outrage from politicians and the public. Here's what we know so far — with a 360-degree video of where the incident took place: http://dnain.fo/1OudfC0

Posted by DNAinfo.com on Tuesday, January 19, 2016

What do prosecutors say happened?

Prosecutors at first said the young woman and her father were drinking in the park at 9:10 p.m. when five teens arrived, pulled out a gun and told the father to leave. The father went to several bodegas in the area asking to use a phone to call 911, they said.

The bodega workers refused, saying he was drunk and did not mention that his daughter was in danger. Surveillance footage shows the father entering a bodega and talking to the people inside before leaving. He eventually found two police officers in a squad car and brought them to the scene, but by then the attackers had fled, officials said.

The young woman eventually recanted her statement about the rape and that the young men had a gun. Investigators also found that the woman had been engaged in sexual acts with her father in the park. She then refused to cooperate in an investigation into her dad, according to the Brooklyn District Attorney. 

► Who were the men accused?

Police arrested five teenagers after releasing this surveillance video taken from a bodega near the playground shortly before the attack:

Shaquell Cooper, 15, of Brownsville. He was held on $50,000 bail. Cooper was previously indicted for assault after prosecutors say he and some friends kicked another teen in the head, face and body in the Rockaway Parkway subway station on Oct. 7, according to court documents. One of his friends beat the victim over the head with a baseball bat, prosecutors said. The victim suffered "extreme swelling" and Cooper was released to a treatment program that he didn't attend, prosecutors said. Cooper's defense attorney says he has an interest in science, has a 9-year-old brother and is expecting a son with his girlfriend in May. He also plays on a basketball team.

Ethan Phillip, 15, who lives in East Flatbush, was arrested Jan. 10 and was arraigned two days later on charges of rape and other sex crimes. He was released on $10,000 bail on Thursday. His brother showed reporters cellphone footage apparently taken moments before the incident. His lawyer said he is the son of a carpenter and a stay-at-home mom and a high school student who plays on two basketball teams.

Travis Beckford, 17, of East New York, was arrested on Jan. 12 when he showed up at his Brooklyn high school. He was arraigned on rape and other criminal sex charges and ordered held on $2,500 bond. His court-appointed defense attorney, Debbie Silberman, told the judge his "character and nature" prompted his teachers to attend his arraignment to support him.

Beckford posted bail and was released Jan. 13, according to court records.

Onandi Brown, 17, of East New York, was arrested Jan. 10 and was arraigned two days later on charges of rape and other sex crimes and ordered held on $2,500 bail. Prosecutors said he had sex with the victim. Brown attends Cultural Academy of The Arts and Sciences and has been the victim of bullying, according to his lawyer. He was released from jail without bail on Jan. 14, according to court records.

Denzel Murray, 14, who lives on Osborn Street about a block from the park, was held on $10,000 bail. He is also a high school student with no criminal history, according to his lawyer. Officials said he has since been released from jail.

What did the teens say happened?

Two of the suspects told investigators that the father was having sex with the daughter when they found them in the park, officials said.

The teens also say they took part in sexual acts with the woman but it was consensual, citing a 12-second cellphone video they took of the woman before they had sex.

The video, which was shared with reporters, shows the woman sitting on the ground in the dark, illuminated by the light from the cellphone. She was wearing a green tank top and was partially undressed. She was smiling, but also appeared to be in a daze. She at no time said anything in the video, and was not heard giving any verbal consent.

She was treated for scrapes and bruises to her elbows, back and legs, police said.

► What evidence did authorities have?

• Confessions — Beckford, Cooper, Murray and Phillip all said that they were on the scene and pointed themselves out on video. Two of them said that they did not have sex with the victim, but those who did said it was with consent

• Surveillance footage Investigators found surveillance footage from inside a bodega that shows the teens walking through the store minutes before the attack. They also found surveillance footage that shows the group of teens leaving the park.

• Cellphone video — The woman appears to be smiling in the brief video, but she does not speak. She is not heard consenting to sex in the clip. None of the young men are visible, but they can be heard talking and laughing.

The defense attorneys argued that the video, which shows the victim smiling, proved that she consented to the sex and therefore their clients can't be charged with rape.

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

► Did police have DNA evidence tying the teens to the incident?

The young woman was administered a rape kit, so DNA was collected, but she later recanted her statements and and the district attorney said there was a "lack of reliable evidence" after dropping the charges. 

► Was the victim able to identify the suspects in a lineup?

The victim did not identify any of the suspects in a lineup. Their attorneys said this proved their clients did not commit the crime. NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said that this doesn't necessarily clear them because trauma victims who are still reeling from an attack often can't identify the people behind it.

► Did investigators find a gun?

No.

When were the charges dropped? 

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson announced on Feb. 24 that his office had dropped the charges after it was found that the woman and her father "provided multiple inconsistent accounts to NYPD Detectives and to experienced Special Victims prosecutors about important material facts in this case."

The young woman also recanted her accusations and refused to cooperate with prosecution against her father.