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Defense attorneys tear into statements of alleged York Fair rape victim

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
Dawn J. Sagert photo

Jurors who will decide the fate of three teens accused of gang raping a 14-year-old girl at gunpoint outside the York Fair in 2017 spent much of Tuesday hearing from the alleged victim in the case, who is now 16.

They also heard plenty about the girl — including that she initially lied to police and her own family about basic details of the case, then gave subsequent versions that weren't entirely true.

All of the defense attorneys in the trial hit hard on the fact that the girl's account of what happened that night has changed repeatedly.

Attorney Lee Cohen, who represents defendant Daishon Richardson, didn't mince words.

"She lied at the beginning. She's still lying here today," he told jurors during his opening statement Tuesday, May 7. "She has changed her version of events over and over again."

Attorney Chris Ferro, who represents Kelvin Mercedes, told jurors that "she's making it up as she goes along."

"There was never a gun," Ferro said. "There was never a rape. There was never a crime."

Ferro argued police "had blinders on from the beginning" about the girl's "multitude of inconsistencies." He and the other defense attorneys maintain the sex was consensual and that the girl only accused the three defendants because they were bragging in school about having sex with her.

Attorney Marc Roberts, who represents Andrew R. Miller, did not give an opening statement Tuesday.

The prosecution conceded in court that the girl made up her first statement to police and that her second statement to police is only about half true.

Evolving details: Testimony Tuesday from the girl, as well as from police officers, revealed she initially told police she was walking home alone from the York Fair the night of Sept. 16, 2017, when a maroon SUV cut her off.

She claimed she was abducted and raped in the van by three males she indicated were white, based on their voices. 

Police later confronted her about the fact that she was seen by at least one witness leaving the fair willingly with Mercedes, Miller and Richardson, according to testimony from West Manchester Township Police Detective Robert Davenport, who initially investigated until it was determined to be West York Borough Police's jurisdiction.

In her video-recorded interview with Davenport, the girl responds by saying, "They made me do it. ... They had guns and everything."

By "they," she meant the three defendants, who she claims told her to make up a story about what happened to her.

"I didn't tell at first because I was scared ... (of) the boys," she testified Tuesday. "They told me not to say anything. They said they would hurt me."

The truth is, she said, that she left the York Fair with Mercedes, Miller and Richardson after they offered to show her a dead body.

'I said no at first': She recounted walking to several secluded areas near the fairgrounds and said that at some point the boys' tones of voice became more aggressive.

She said they ordered her to get on her knees and perform oral sex on them.

"I said no at first," she said, but then added that "I did what they told me to" because Mercedes had a gun tucked into his boxer shorts that he pulled out and waved "toward my face."

She said after performing oral sex on the  three, she was dragged by them to an area behind an apparently abandoned home, where "they took turns raping me."

Afterward, a car pulled up, picked up the foursome and headed back toward the York Fair, where she was pushed out, she said, adding she was terrified.

The girl said the rape "changed my whole high school (life)."

"I don't feel like a normal kid," she told jurors. "I get bullied all the time."

She said she later learned that Mercedes, Miller and Richardson were "going around school lying" about her having consensual group sex with them. She cited it as one reason she gave their names to police, saying "that's not who I am."

Memory issues: The girl repeatedly said she doesn't remember or doesn't know details while being questioned by senior deputy prosecutor Kara Bowser and the three defense attorneys.

She initially told police she was choked, but on Tuesday she said she doesn't remember being choked.

She maintains that as the teens took turns raping her, one would hold her down. She said she couldn't remember who held her down or how long the rapes took.

The girl maintains the teens physically dragged her from location to location and "tossed me around," prompting defense attorneys to repeatedly note that she suffered no visible injuries on her arms, legs, torso, neck, back or head.

She said she doesn't know or remember whether the driver who picked them up after the rape was male or female or the driver's race.

She told police early on in the investigation that the teens threatened to put her down a well and that there was "caution" tape around the well, according to testimony. But on Tuesday, the girl said she doesn't know if they tried to do that.

Testimony on Tuesday revealed that what the girl thought was a well was actually a pile of bricks that apparently served as a backyard fire pit.

Bowser asked the girl on redirect whether it was difficult for her to remember details because she'd blocked them out, and she said yes.

Mercedes and Miller are now 17 years old; Richardson is 18. All three were 16 years old at the time of the alleged gang rape.

They remain free on bail, charged with rape and related offenses.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.