Nancy A. Fischer, News Niagara Bureau, July 27, 2006
[Note: Initial report of the arrests below.]
Lockport — Four teenagers charged in the gang rape of a disabled classmate in May have been released from jail, and family members of the suspects said during a hearing Wednesday that the charges are racially motivated.
“Would we be here if the girl was black, too?” said the legal guardian of suspect Dartain M. Ubiles, who declined to give her name. She noted the victim is white, while the four suspects, all 16, are black.
The woman also said the four — Dontre Woods of Lock Street; Ubiles of Frontier Street, Niagara Falls; Nicholas Smith of Crosby Avenue; and Antonio J. Sheppard of Gabriel Drive — were forced to sign statements at Lockport High School to avoid being suspended.
“They turned [the boys against] each other without involving the parents,” the guardian said.
Detective Capt. Lawrence Eggert said skin color has absolutely nothing to do with this case.
“All I care about is the law. I didn’t know who was black and who was white. For 26 years I’ve worked hard to be fair. To call this a racial issue is ridiculous. This case will stand or fall on its own merit.”
The Rev. Mark Sanders, a Lockport community policing aide and local pastor, said the four boys are themselves victims.
“I think all the facts are not out,” he said. “These boys have already been demonized and tried. It’s wrong to make a judgment before all sides have been heard.”
“They are all broken up,” he added. “They come from good homes. They are athletes who box and play football. These are not thugs from the street. None of them have ever been in jail.” Sanders said he also sympathized with the 15-year-old girl and called her situation traumatizing. “My heart is broken. Sexuality is a big problem for teens,” Sanders said.
Ubiles’ mother, Katrina, who declined to reveal her last name, said, “This incident should never have gotten this far. They’ve got them scared. None of this is true.”
Sheppard was freed on bail Tuesday. The other three were freed Wednesday on their own recognizance.
The four, who were ordered to stay away from the girl and stay out of trouble as a condition of their release, are scheduled to return to court at 9 a.m. Aug. 30.
Lockport — Four 16-year-old youths are charged in the gang rape in May of a 15-year-old disabled girl at the home of one of the boys.
Police say the attackers violated the girl and recorded the assault with a cell phone camera.
The charges followed a two-month investigation by Lockport Police Lt. David Barrancotta.
The teens befriended the girl then lured her to the home of one of the attackers May 12, where they took turns attacking her over an hour and a half, said Detective Capt. Lawrence Eggert.
He said the victim and the suspects were students at Lockport High School.
The four charged are: Dontre R. Woods of Lock Street, where the attack occurred; Dartain M. Ubiles of Frontier Street, Niagara Falls; Nicholas M. Smith of Crosby Avenue; and Antonio J. Sheppard of Gabriel Drive.
Two were charged with first-degree forcible rape and three youths were charged with felony first-degree criminal sexual act. A fourth youth was charged with videotaping the attack on his cell phone.
Eggert said the cell phone was confiscated by police, but noted that a 30-second video clip of the rape was erased. He said Sheppard admitted to police that he had taped the other youths raping the girl.
“We’re not sure if the video was widely seen by other people, but we did receive some notification from others that the video existed,” Eggert said.
Kelly Campbell, captain of the Lock Street Block Club, a neighbor of the Woods family, said she was sad about what happened to the girl, but was also sad for the four youths.
“None of these kids would have done this on his own. I don’t think they are that kind of kids, but they made a huge mistake, which will affect their whole lives,” Campbell said.
She blamed both raging hormones and children in the blighted area having nowhere to redirect their energy.