Verdict announced against teen accused of raping girls

William Rodriguez faces multiple life terms

SAN DIEGO - A 17-year-old boy was convicted Monday of kidnapping and committing multiple sex acts, including rape, against two girls in a dark Rancho Penasquitos park last year.

William Steven Rodriguez was found guilty of 10 of 21 charges, including forcible oral copulation and forcible sodomy, in connection with the Sept. 3, 2011, attack.

Jurors acquitted the teen of rape by a foreign object on Jane Doe 1, and were unable to reach unanimous verdicts on 10 other counts.

Eight of the counts on which he was convicted carry a sentence of 25 years to life, said Deputy District Attorney Wendy Patrick.

"[It's a] tremendous amount of relief to know that justice was upheld. We commend the jury for the careful evaluation of the facts and evidence," said Sarah Moesta, a family friend of the victims.

"Our prayers for these innocent young girls who survived this horrific event are that they will someday be able to heal and go on to lead happy lives," Moesta added.

The jury's verdicts, reached about 10 days ago, remained sealed until a separate jury reached verdicts in the case against co-defendant Leonel Contreras, also 17. Both defendants were prosecuted as adults.

Contreras was convicted Friday on 21 counts, including conspiracy, rape and kidnapping.

Contreras faces sentencing Dec. 5, while Rodriguez is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 15.

Patrick would not say whether her office would retry the unresolved counts against Rodriguez.

"It is the end of a very stressful year for the victims and their families," the prosecutor said outside court. "It's been a long time waiting for this result."

Patrick said the victims courageously testified about what happened to them.

"These were two young girls that were united by family, faith and ambition who took a walk on a sunny weekend day to a green park with a white picket fence with a green lawn -- known as a greenbelt -- and never thought that to simply take a walk and look for a place to sit and have some conversation would end up turning into a 30- to 45-minute brutal rape/sexual assault series," Patrick told reporters.

Moesta said the families of both victims were relieved that justice was done. She said the victims are healing.

"They're doing good. They're doing really well," she said. "Both families are pleased with the guilty verdicts for both Rodriguez and Contreras. We feel a tremendous amount of relief to know justice was upheld. We are so proud of our daughters who've been very brave throughout this difficult year. Our prayers for these innocent young girls who survived this horrific event are that they will someday be able to heal and go on to lead happy lives. They have the love and support of our families to help see them through."

In her closing argument, Patrick said the defendants had a plan to assault the girls and Contreras told Rodriguez that he had a knife.

But Rodriguez's attorney, Dana Feuling, said there was no conspiracy between the defendants and that her client acted on "impulse."

She said Rodriguez cooperated after his arrest and admitted what he did.

"(Expletive) happens," Rodriguez told police. "The body is weak when it sees flesh."

Feuling said Rodriguez was not guilty of sodomy, rape by a foreign object or conspiracy.

"He shouldn't be charged with more than he's actually responsible for," the defense attorney said.

Patrick told jurors that the victims, then 15 and 16 years old, were friends who went to a family party in the 12600 block of Spindletop Road.

"The two defendants took their innocence from them," the prosecutor said.

The prosecutor said Rodriguez and Contreras were out smoking marijuana when they spotted the two girls as they took a nighttime walk along a greenbelt running behind a residential neighborhood.

The boys accosted them, with Contreras holding a knife, and forced them to a more secluded area, using threats to make them stay quiet, she said.

According to the prosecutor, the defendants subjected them to "a brutal 30- to 40-minute series of sexual assaults that included every imaginable kind of rape."

Patrick said graffiti found in the open space resulted in a tip that led investigators to Rodriguez, who told police what happened. Police then tracked down Contreras.

Neighbors near the scene of the crime told 10News they're also relieved.

Sheri Hughes said, "I'm really happy to hear the convictions and happy to hear that they were tried as adults. I think it stinks for their lives; that they're teenagers and have determined the kind of like they'll lead; but considering what they did, I don't have a lot of sympathy."

She talked of the fact that the rapes stunned the community.

"It makes you do a reality check that no matter what you are… we think we're safe but you still have to take measures to be safe," said Hughes.

Judy Lester spoke of her belief that the neighborhood is still a great place to live.

"It was devastating to have this happen in our neighborhood, but it doesn't characterize what our neighborhood is. There are families who are closer; we care about each other, so we're glad the two young men were convicted," Lester told 10News.

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