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Brooklyn woman unable to ID suspects in alleged rape, lawyers say

The New York Police Department released surveillance footage

The New York Police Department released surveillance footage of four suspects entering a nearby bodega at 635 Watkins St. in Brooklyn before the alleged rape of an 18-year-old woman who was walking in the nearby Osborn Playground with her father later the same evening. Credit: NYPD

A Brooklyn woman allegedly raped last week in a Brownsville park failed to identify four of her suspected attackers in a police lineup, defense attorneys on the case said Wednesday.

As is standard procedure, the victim viewed the defendants in person and through a photo array, the lawyers said. The woman’s father, who was with her in the park, is also believed to have tried and failed to identify the suspects in a lineup, said attorneys Spencer Leeds and Kenneth Montgomery.

“There were no hits,” said Leeds, representing defendant Onandi Brown, 17 of Brooklyn. A spokeswoman for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office confirmed in court Tuesday at a hearing for the defendants that the four were not identified.

Police arrested Brown and three other Brooklyn teenagers over the weekend in connection with the alleged rape of the woman in Osborn Playground in Brownsville. Investigators said the rape occurred just after 9 p.m. on Jan. 7 although the NYPD waited two days to release information to the public.

The teenagers attacked the woman as she walked in the park at night with her father, police said. Before the four raped the woman, police said, one of the defendants brandished a handgun and ordered her father to leave.

Investigators also charged Ethan Phillip, 15, Denzel Murray, 14, and Shaquell Cooper, 15, the NYPD said. The four Brooklyn teenagers face charges of rape in the first degree, sexual abuse and related crimes, according to complaints filed in Brooklyn criminal court.

After pursuing leads for nearly a week, police arrested a fifth suspect Tuesday night, Travis Beckford, 17, also of Brooklyn. He remained in custody Wednesday night awaiting arraignment.

Leeds and Montgomery, who represents Phillip, said the fact the four were not identified in the lineup helps their defense.

“It is a factor that works in our favor, for sure,” Leeds said.

A law enforcement official familiar with the case said the lack of lineup identification won’t prevent the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office from prosecuting the case. The victim had evidence of physical and sexual injuries that appeared to corroborate her claim against the five, officials said.

Police also retrieved a cellphone belonging to one of the suspects after obtaining a search warrant. The cellphone contains a grainy, seven-second video of the incident, the official said, adding the woman appears “out of it” in the footage.

Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said Tuesday detectives are investigating claims from two of the rape suspects that the victim was in the park drunk and having sex with her father.

The NYPD’s decision to hold off making the allegations public until late Saturday sparked criticism of the department and City Hall by politicians and community leaders. Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said police should have let him know before the weekend about the case and NYPD Commissioner William Bratton admitted the police department should have released information to the public earlier.

Veteran Brooklyn defense attorney James DiPietro said prosecutors can still make a viable case , particularly if statements made by the defense implicate each other or if DNA evidence shows sexual activity.

“It is nice to have an [identification] but it is not the end of the world,” DiPietro said.

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