The five teenagers accused of gang raping an 18-year-old woman at a Brooklyn park were ordered released from jail Thursday, after the district attorney alerted the court that he would not make the initial deadline to obtain indictments against them.
Travis Beckford, 17; Onandi Brown, 17; Ethan Phillip, 15; Shaquelle Cooper, 15, and Denzel Murray, 14, were ordered released one week after the alleged attack at the Osborn Playground in Brownsville that had left the city on edge.
Four of the five teens were able to walk free without posting bail, but Cooper reportedly remains jailed for a pending assault case.
Under New York law, prosecutors have less than one week from the time a suspect is arrested on a felony charge to obtain an indictment from the grand jury. If that deadline is not met, the suspect must be released from jail.
Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said police and prosecutors are continuing to investigate the case. His office now has six months to obtain an indictment.
“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 in a statement. “So, therefore, we have consented to the defendants’ release.”
In what has become an increasingly more complicated case, initial reports said that five suspects approached a woman and her father while the pair sat in a playground about 9:10 p.m. on January 7.
Police said one suspect pointed a gun at them and demanded that the father leave, and while he frantically searched for help, the group of five raped his daughter.
The accused teens allegedly fled before the father returned to the park with two police officers, but they were arrested days later and charged as adults in the crime, officials said.
But the case’s narrative became more complex, as two of the defendants alleged that the father and daughter were having sex on the playground’s tennis court when the group approached, which the pair adamantly denied.
“Why would you ask that question?” the father reportedly said in disgust to investigators, the New York Daily News reported.
A smartphone video that appeared to show the alleged victim and the suspects also emerged, as a relative of one of the accused claimed it proved that any sex was consensual.
“She said yeah. If you said yeah, it’s lit, you know what I mean. I could tell you a freak,” an unidentified male voice is heard on the recording, according to The New York Times.
The woman and her father have admitted to drinking alcohol at the playground before the encounter, Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said.
Neither the victim nor her dad was able to pick out any of the five teens in lineups, officials said.
Attorneys for the accused maintained their clients’ innocence after their release.
“Straight out of the gate, the case wasn’t solid,” Philips’ lawyer Abdula Greene said, the News wrote.
Murray’s attorney, Kenneth Montgomery, said “so-called community leaders” and police condemned the teens “without trying to figure out what happened before they ruin these young men’s lives.”
“The first story is never the last story,” Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said on Thursday. “I think in this case that’s certainly the case or will prove to be the case.”
He said detectives are reviewing a 10-second cellphone video which apparently showed the victim smiling and not wearing pants, the News reported.
Officials are also waiting to receive the results of a rape kit, which may take more than a week to complete.