Border Patrol agents acquitted of lewd acts during intermission of circus performance
Kallie Helwig found guilty of battery
Last Updated: 126 days ago
VISTA, Calif. - A jury Monday acquitted two off-duty Border Patrol agents of committing a lewd act during intermission of a Cirque du Soleil performance at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and deadlocked on another lewd act charge, but found one of the agents guilty of attacking a Navy psychiatrist who complained about their behavior.
Gerald Joseph Torello, 35, and Kallie Lamb Helwig, 25, will be back in court March 1.
Jurors found Helwig guilty of misdemeanor battery, but deadlocked on a similar charge against Torello. Both were found not guilty of committing lewd acts during the intermission period of the "Totem" show. Jurors deadlocked on two counts pertaining to lewd acts committed during the course of the show.
A witness to the May 27 incident, Navy Lt. Chai Wu, testified that she witnessed the couple "kissing and groping" during a matinee performance and saw what she believed to be Helwig performing a sex act with Torello.
Wu said she told the couple to "get a room," then tried to alert security.
"She screamed, repeatedly, three or four times, 'He has his hand on her breast,'" said Helwig, who told the court she screamed back with conviction, "His hand is on my stomach."
At the end of the show, Helwig and Wu got into a scuffle near an exit and Helwig said she punched Wu in self-defense.
"She approached me. I felt threatened and I felt that I had no other choice than to defend myself," Helwig said.
Defense attorneys said Torello and Helwig kissed and were affectionate during the performance but maintained that witnesses misconstrued what happened.
Helwig testified that she was feeling ill and at one point rested her head in Torello's lap.
"Did Miss Helwig ever put her hands down your pants?" asked defense attorney Richard Muir.
"'No, sir," replied Torrello.
"Would you have let her do that?" Muir asked.
"No sir," Torello responded.
"Why not?" asked Muir.
"It's just not appropriate," said Torello.
According to prosecution witnesses, Helwig put her hands down Torello's pants during intermission in full view of the public.
However, Helwig testified that she was tugging on Torello's belt in an effort to keep him from buying a fourth glass of champagne because she said Torello had already had too much.
Later, the couple sitting next to the agents claimed Helwig's head was in Torello's lap and she appeared to be performing a sex act.
Wu testified that she, her husband and another female doctor got tickets to see the show so they could celebrate her husband's birthday.
Wu testified that during intermission, she and her friend noticed a couple near the bench where they were sitting kissing, and then they saw the woman sit down facing the man, tugging on his belt and putting her hands in his pants. Wu said she was "incredulous," but soon they returned to their seats.
When they got there, they realized the same couple was sitting in front of them.
"They were kissing and groping and just arms and legs everywhere, and again, I was like, 'Are you kidding me?'" said Wu.
Wu said she tried to ignore the couple, but it was impossible because they kept bumping into her husband. Finally, her husband spoke to the man, according to Wu.
"I heard him lean back and say to the guy, 'Are you enjoying the show?' And then I hear the guy say yes," Wu recounted. "No shame, no stopping, no consideration whatsoever. And I got more and more aggravated and upset and so then I lean over and I said, 'Maybe you guys should go get a room.'"
Wu told the court that people around them were beginning to notice, and some left their seats as the woman's head was face-down in the man's lap, moving rhythmically. That was when Wu claimed she told the couple to "get a room."
At one point, Wu said that two small children in the row ahead of the couple turned to see what all the commotion was about, and that's when Wu claims Torello gave the little boy a high five.
Wu claims that when the boy's father asked the woman to stop what she was doing, Torello responded by saying, "Talk to her like that again and I'll kill you."
After the circus performance was over, Wu testified that Torello and Helwig left quickly, but were waiting for her. Wu claimed Helwig was punching the air as she approached, and that Torello could be heard saying, "You can take her, hon, I've got your back."
Wu said that Helwig punched her several times, and photos of her injuries were shown in court. Wu admitted she pulled Helwig's hair "so that she couldn't get in any more full swings at me."
The defendants remain on administrative leave from the Border Patrol while their case is pending.
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. City News Service contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.