Lawyers for the four boys found guilty Friday in the rape of a 14-year-old Ramapo girl and the sexual assault on her 12-year-old sister said their clients are hoping to move past the dramatic events of the past few months.
The family is "quite remorseful," Lurlyn Winchester Youngblood, the lawyer for one of the 13-year-old defendants, said outside the Rockland County Courthouse. "It was a very traumatic case and the parents of course they're looking at everything their [child] has done and make sure it never happens again."
The boys, three of them 13 years old and one 12, were found guilty on charges of attempted rape, sex abuse, criminal sex act, and criminal sexual conduct. One of the 13-year-olds was found guilty of first-degree rape. The felony convictions could land the boys in a juvenile detention facility until their 18th birthdays.
"Your life is not a video game, it's not a movie . . . it's real and what you do has consequences. That's a lesson you learn now the hard way," Family Court Judge Sheri Eisenpress told the boys as she gave her verdict. "You made some really bad decisions."
According to police, the four boys entered the girls' home on several occasions between June 11 and June 13, sexually assaulting the girls on each occasion. A third sister, 11, was in the house but was not assaulted, officials said.
The sensational case has attracted media attention, both because of the nature of the charges and the ages of those involved. The victims were 12 and 13 at the time of the attacks.
Larry Gantt, an attorney for another of the 13-year-old boys, said he was not surprised by the judge's decision. He said he prepared his clients for what might happen.
"Obviously, [his family] was very scared, as was my client," Gantt said.
The Chestnut Ridge Middle School boys remained seated when the judge announced her decision. The 12-year-old cried over the verdict, while the other three teens stared at the floor.
Eisenpress said she hopes the boys will "learn to treat women with the respect you would want your sisters and your mothers to be treated."
The victims' family was not in court for the verdict.
The boys, who are due back in court Oct. 11, were allowed to continue house arrest and go to school two hours per day. Orders of protection are still in effect and bar them from contacting the victims.
David Goldstein, who represents the 12-year-old boy, hopes his client will be placed on probation and continue the therapy he's been undergoing.
"The boys are all going home to continue with school, to continue with their rehabilitation and to go on, to rehabilitate, not to punish," Goldstein said.
Daniel Bertolino, counsel for the fourth boy, declined to comment.
Testimony from victims, defendant at odds
The trial, which started Aug. 20, consisted of six days of dramatic testimony from both sides.
The younger victim, now 13, took the stand in August and recounted her efforts to save her older sister from the attackers by picking the lock on a bedroom door with a kitchen knife.
"I heard screaming, 'Get off of me,'" the girl testified. "I banged on the door and I tried pushing it open."
She went on to say that the day after her attempted rescue, the boys acted on a threat made to her sister that they would rape her too.
A friend of the older sister also took the stand during the trial and spoke about the text messages she received from the victim right before one of the attacks.
"OMG, they are here," the 14-year-old girl wrote, using the popular texting acronym for "Oh my God."
"I'm scared they're looking for me," she continued to text.
The defense pointed out that the friend failed to report the incident. When asked why, the friend said, "I doubted her," according to lawyer David Goldstein, who represents the 12-year-old boy.
The 12-year-old was the only one of the defendants to take the stand during the trial.
In nearly four hours on the witness stand Thursday, the boy maintained that the sexual relations were mostly consensual.
The boy said he knew the girls from school and a soccer team and before the alleged attacks had been at the girls' house twice -- once for a water balloon fight just days earlier.
The defense cases had centered on why the girls didn't immediately report the attacks to their parents or police. The sisters told their parents a day after the last incident, after they were encouraged to do so by a classmate. The boys were arrested two days after that, on June 16.
Defense attorneys had also argued that incriminating statements given to police by each of the 13-year-old defendants were not properly obtained because the boys and their parents did not fully understand their rights.
The judge rejected those arguments and admitted the incriminating statements into evidence at the trial.