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A New Bedford police officer yesterday testified that the victim of an alleged gang rape took him to Big Dan's Bar on the night of the attack last March, but failed to point out two of the six men now being tried for the rape.
Officer Adrian Medeiros's testimony, along with several discrepancies in the statements of the victim and a key witnesses, came as the latest in a series of contradictory statements from witnesses in the case, which has received nationwide attention.
Last week the bar's former owner told the court that he had witnessed and tried to stop the six-man assault but also said that later that night he had bailed out one of the defendants.
The 22-year-old victim also admitted that she had illegally received welfare benefits for three years, testimony which defense lawyers seized upon to discredit the woman.
"The outcome of the case rests on whether the jury believes the victim's story or the chief witness's," said Kenneth Sullivan, the lawyer for one of the defendants.
Sullivan added that while the victim said she had one drink and didn't talk to anyone in the bar. Carlos Machado, the former owner of the bar, said she had four drinks and had been laughing with the men and kissing them.
Moreover, the victim testified that the rapes took place on the pool table, while Machado said that "she was dragged across the floor to the pool table" after being raped.
Sullivan said, "I don't think a woman is likely to forget where she was raped."
But the victim's lawyer, Scott Charnas, said a few discrepancies in her statements are to be expected. "Not many people could stand for 15 hours with six defense lawyers questioning her, and an afternoon [defense] lawyer taking notes at the morning trial," Charnas said.
The victim has filed a $10 million law-suit against the bar's owners, but the owners do not have the assets to cover that penalty, according to Charnas. However, the suit will not be dropped until the rape trial is concluded.
"The outcome of this case will affect the way rape cases are tried in the future," said Elizabeth L. Bennett, a counselor at New Bedford's Rape Crisis Project. The cape center was started last August in response to the incident.
"When consent isn't easy to prove, they try to do it through degradation and defilement of the woman's character, trying to prove she deserved' it," Bennett said.
In a town the size of New Bedford 100,000 residents a rape probably is committed every other day. Bennett said, adding that she feels the Big Dan's incident has made New Bedford residents much more sensitive about rape.
"If anyone came into New Bedford for a minute, they'd find everyone talking about it--in stores, in restaurants.
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