Ramapo rape judge grants Facebook, email access

NEWS 12 WESTCHESTER: Four boys accused of raping two girls in Ramapo are scheduled to appear in court Thursday. (June 24, 2012)

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Defense attorneys in the Ramapo rape case were granted access to email, text and Facebook content that prosecutors had collected both from the four defendants and from the alleged victims.

One defense attorney has suggested that the Facebook material will establish that the girls told friends they had "a good time" on one of the nights they allegedly were attacked by the four boys, all of whom are 13 or younger.

"I'm sure there is going to be a lot in there that will be used against the complainants' version of events," Attorney David Goldstein, who is representing a 12-year-old defendant, said Wednesday.

Following Thursday's hearing, defense attorney Larry Gantt said his client is frightened but ill-equipped to understand what is happening.

"My client is scared," Gantt said. "He is a 13-year-old boy, from what I can see. He keeps asking me, 'When am I going to get my iPod back?' "

The four defendants -- three of them 13 years old and one 12 -- are accused of raping two girls in their Ramapo home. Defense lawyers have suggested the girls were to some degree willing participants in sex.

Rockland County Family Court Judge Sherri Eisenpress had required that all four defendants remain at their homes, barring a medical emergency; but on Thursday, she loosened the restrictions, allowing one defendant to attend classes and another to attend a brother's wedding. She said all could attend religious services.

She said she will hear arguments on July 10 regarding the admissibility of statements made to police.

Press coverage also became an issue Thursday when the judge hearing the case told a local newspaper that she intended to exclude the newspaper's reporters from hearings unless the newspaper agreed to stop publishing the names of the four defendants.

Eisenpress told a lawyer representing the Journal News -- a newspaper based in Harrison -- that she considered the newspaper's decision to publish the names to be "in extremely poor taste" and that she felt the newspaper "needs to reconsider its decision."

The Journal News published the names of the four defendants last week.

Rather than accede to Eisenpress' request, the newspaper withdrew reporters from her courtroom in New City.

"If they choose to come back and comply with those terms, they're welcome," Eisenpress said from the bench.

American law enforcement authorities normally do not release the names of minors accused of crimes and news organizations do not generally publish the names of defendants who are minors, on the basis that children should be protected from notoriety, even when they are guilty of crimes.

Newsday has not published the names.

When a Newsday reporter called the Journal News seeking comment on the judge's action, there was no immediate response.

Discussion of the newspaper's policy was instigated by Goldstein.

At a hearing last week, Assistant County Attorney Elizabeth Di Stefano said the boys had made critical admissions in statements given to police on June 16, a day before they were arrested.

Di Stefano declined to comment following Thursday's hearing.

Ramapo police detectives have said the boys broke into a home in Ramapo through a window on June 11, attacked the girls and then continued their attacks during the course of three days. In one instance, the boys pinned a girl on the bed while one of them stood guard at a door, police have said.

Defense attorneys are trying to show that the girls knew the boys and willingly let them into the multifamily home.

If convicted, each boy could be held in a juvenile facility until his 18th birthday.

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