Five teenagers who were arrested and charged as adults in the alleged gang rape of an 18-year-old woman in a Brooklyn, N.Y., park have been released from jail.
“Because we are determined to get to the truth about what happened in that park, we need more time to investigate this complex case and gather more evidence,” Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, who agreed to the teenagers’ release Thursday, told the New York Daily News. “Therefore, we have consented to the defendants’ release.”
The defendants—Travis Beckford, 17; Onandi Brown, 17; Ethan Phillip, 15; Shaquell Cooper, 15; and Denzel Murray, 14—were released Thursday even if they hadn’t already posted bail.
“Mr. Thompson did a very decent thing by calling and agreeing to have him cut from prison before the family put a bail package together,” defendant Onandi Brown’s lawyer, Spencer Leeds, told the Daily News. “We believe, after a full and fair investigation is complete, Onandi will be exonerated.”
According to the Daily News, the five teens were charged with rape and assault after the 18-year-old young woman’s father claimed that he and his daughter were in Osborn Playground in Broooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood Jan. 7 when the five young men approached and ordered the father to leave.
The father claimed that he left briefly and returned to find the teens assaulting his daughter. He claimed that one of the teens threatened him with a gun if he didn’t leave the area. The father waved down a police officer and reported the attack. The teens were arrested shortly after the horrid details of the story were released.
The teens told police a different story, claiming that the sex they had with the young woman was consensual. The teens also claimed that when they encountered the father in the park, he was having sex with his daughter.
News of the teens’ release comes just a day after it was reported that police obtained warrants to search some of the teens’ cellphones, one of which reportedly has video showing the boys and the young woman moments before the alleged attack.
“The first story is never the last story,” New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton told the Daily News. “I think, in this case, that’s certainly the case or will prove to be the case.”
Bratton would not elaborate on how the initial story might change, but added that the police were investigating a “significant” piece of cellphone video footage taken from one of the teens’ phones.
“It’s nine to 11 seconds; I believe it’s been retrieved from one of the cellphones of the young men being investigated in this matter,” he said. “It is a significant piece of evidence as we try to piece together what happened.”
Relatives of the teens told the Daily News that the video footage shows that the sex was consensual.
Bratton added that he has been in contact with Thompson and will continue investigating the case until all the facts come out.
“I spoke at length with Ken yesterday as that case is going forward, so we’ll just have to wait over the next several days as the interviews continue and then try to put together exactly what happened,” he said.
Debbie Silberman, the lawyer for another of the suspects, Travis Beckford, told the Daily News Wednesday that the case is unraveling.
“The prosecution’s case is getting weaker, not stronger,” Silberman said.
Read more at the New York Daily News.