A Hofstra University student who had her cell phone snatched by a man she was dancing with at a campus party was unwittingly lured back to a dormitory, tied up in a bathroom stall and gang raped by him and four of his friends -- one of them a student, police said Tuesday.
The attack, which police said appears to have been orchestrated in advance, sent shock waves across the college's Hempstead campus Tuesday, leaving students hungry for information and fearful.
The four men have each been charged with five counts of first-degree rape, one for the rape of the 18-year-old Hofstra student that police say they committed themselves, and four for the rapes they are accused of participating in as accomplices, police and prosecutors said.
Police said they are still seeking a fifth suspect. The arrested men all pleaded not guilty in First District Court in Hempstead and are being held on $500,000 bond or $350,000 cash, prosecutors said. All face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
Greg Kigozi, a sophomore at Hofstra who has known Rondell Bedward, the Hofstra student from the Bronx accused in the rape, for a year, described him as a polite political science major who played basketball at the student recreation center.
"It's just shocking to me," said Kigozi, 20, of Los Angeles. "I can't see Rondell doing something like that."
Police said the victim was dancing at an on-campus spot, Hofstra USA, with Jesus L. Ortiz, of the Bronx, when Ortiz grabbed her cell phone and went outside.
"Clearly, I think the cell phone was taken to lure her away from the crowd to do her harm," said Allen, commander of the department's special victims squad.
The two men, neither of whom is a Hofstra student, forced the woman into a men's room toilet stall, tied her up and raped her, police said.
Later, three other men entered the bathroom, police said. The woman appealed to them to help her before realizing they were friends of her attackers. Soon, they raped her, too, police said.
Police would not say whether she was a resident of the dorm where the attack took place.
Melissa Connolly, vice president for university relations, confirmed that Bedward worked part-time as a public safety employee at the school.
Hofstra junior Ryan Broderick, news editor for the college paper, the Hofstra Chronicle, said he lives on the 11th floor of the dorm where the attack happened, but did not hear anything early Sunday morning.
Broderick said he'd been instructed by police not to reveal the name of the dormitory where the attack happened, but several other students said it was Estabrook Hall.
Students said the 11th floor where the rape allegedly occurred at the coed dormitory is an all-male floor. Taveras and Felipe, of the Bronx, are stepbrothers, family members said.
At the men's arraignment Tuesday, a woman in the courtroom who identified herself as Taveras' stepmother but wouldn't give her name said of Taveras, "He's a good kid. I'm shocked." The same woman, who said she is Felipe's mother, also said she was saddened. "As a mother, I am hurt. It's terrible," she said.
Pat O'Brien, a Hofstra junior who covered the police news conference for the campus radio station, WRHU, said it's all too easy for outsiders to get into dorms if accompanied by students.
Others said they must swipe their student identification card to enter the dorm, then sign guests in at a booth staffed by a campus public safety officer. Guests must leave identification at the booth. The four suspects had signed in.
Connolly said she didn't know what Bedward's duties as a public safety employee were, but said most students in his position are charged with monitoring dormitory entrances.
The university's most recent crime report states that there were a total of 13 forcible sexual offenses in 2005 and 2006; all but two occurred on campus in residential facilities. There were no reports of sexual attacks in 2007.
Newsday staff writers Joseph Mallia, Sumathi Reddy and Andrew Strickler contributed to this story.