Defense lawyers in San Fermín gang-rape case insist victim consented
Three magistrates will now rule on the case, in which five men are accused of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old at the Running of the Bulls fiestas
The fate of the five men accused of a gang rape at the Running of the Bulls fiestas in Pamplona in 2016 is now in the hands of the three magistrates – one woman and two men – who make up the Second Section of the Navarre High Court. After 11 sessions of testimony, the case known as “La Manada” – or The Pack, named after the WhatsApp group used by the defendants to chat – is set for a ruling.
The defense lawyers have argued throughout the case that the woman who has accused the five – who are all from Seville, and include a Civil Guard and a member of the military – was not the victim of a sexual assault, but rather consented to having sexual relations with all of the men.
According to her version of events, she was taken by the hand by two of the men into the entrance hall of a residential building and forced into having relations with all five defendants, who recorded the sex acts on their cellphones. One of the men then stole her own phone – something to which he has admitted in court.
“The axiom of the accusations is that a woman cannot meet five men and have consensual group relations with them,” argued Jesús Pérez, the defense attorney for one of the five defendants, all of whom were aged between 25 and 27 years old at the time of the alleged sexual assault. In their conclusions, the three defense lawyers tried to pull apart the narrative offered the day before by the public prosecutor in charge of the case, Elena Sarasate, who is calling for prison terms of 22 years and 10 months for each of the men.
Agustín Martínez Becerra, who represents three of the defendants, paid particular attention to the attitude of the victim. He alluded to her appearance in court, “with a jovial rictus, affability, lack of distress and a peculiar way of sitting,” according to the lawyer. He went on to point out that she had admitted that she had shut her eyes during the sexual relations, as could be seen in the videos recorded by the defendants, which could, he argued, be interpreted as “much as that she was submissive as not.
“Fellatio cannot be performed with open eyes,” he continued, in an attempt to contradict the report filed by the police about the videos, which reflected the silence of the victim in the recordings, her closed eyes and her “neutral and non-active” role.
“There is no sign of disgust, nor pain, nor suffering,” he argued, in a bid to prove her alleged consent, which has been the basis of his defense strategy. According to the attorney, the police report is “full of subjective interpretations.”
The defense lawyer for the alleged rapists also analyzed the attitude of the victim after the events, and stated that it was “peculiar” that the young woman would share a photo on Instagram a month before the trial that made reference to a phrase associated with a television program. “Think what you like about me, but [sharing the photo] far exceeds normal life and even more so for someone who has suffered an alleged assault,” he told the court. The phrase in question, the attorney explained, is “from a character famous for threesomes of all kinds, lesbianism and ardor.”
Both Jesús Pérez and Juan Canales, lawyers for the civil guard and member of the military (both have been suspended), suggested that the alleged victim had taken the case to court due to the “influence of third parties,” according to Pérez. The lawyer went on to cite the “campaigns against sexist assaults at San Fermín” as one of those factors, something that could, he argued, have prompted the couple that found the young woman crying after the alleged assault to encourage her to call the police on the basis of a “possible sexual assault.” According to their account she only stated initially “it was them” in reference to the theft of her cellphone.
Pérez went on to suggest that the “municipal police had an excessive interest in denouncing a sexual assault,” and drew attention to the “express order” for the victim “not to leave Pamplona” from the police after she made her initial statement.
After one of the municipal police officers testified last week that the young woman said that she knew that the men had recorded her, but then failed to mention that fact in her police statement, the lawyers argued that finding out about the recording of the incident was the “only reason” for the rape claim, Canales argued, adding that the young woman “went into a panic because she thought that the images would end up on social networks” hours after the incident. “The only way to justify those images was to make up a story,” Canales concluded.