Jury finds men guilty in Mission Beach rape case
by NEAL PUTNAM
Feb 20, 2008 | 4206 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A jury on Tuesday convicted three men of multiple counts of rape and forcible oral copulation in the sexual assaults of two University of San Diego (USD) students in Mission Beach in October 2006. The brutal home invasion attack stunned the community and mobilized authorities to install security cameras in the neighborhood.

The San Diego Superior Court jury began deliberations on Feb. 13 but had Friday off, and Monday was a court holiday. Because there were so many counts, the actual reading of the verdicts took more than 1 1/2 hours.

The jury found Donald Duante Smith, 20, and Antonio Washington, 19, guilty on all 26 charges, which also include digital penetration, sodomy, four counts of false imprisonment, four counts of robbery, two counts of kidnapping for robbery and attempted rape. Willie Louis Watkins, 32, was found guilty of 24 counts.

Deputy District Attorney Patrick Espinoza said Smith, Washington and Watkins face at least 300 years in prison because of the state's one-strike rape law that triples sentences with multiple sexual assault counts. The two kidnap for robbery convictions carry life sentences.

Judge John Einhorn set sentencing for March 17, although defense attorneys indicated they may request a sentencing delay.

The victims lived in a condominium at San Fernando Place when the three attackers entered the home through an unlocked door around 3:15 a.m. on Oct. 15, 2006. The rapists separated two men, also USD students, in the home visiting the women before the sexual assault. All four students were robbed after the sexual assault.

The men attempted to kidnap the women and ordered them outside, but the attackers ran away after seeing a police car drive by, which allowed the women to escape.

During the trial, the jury heard detailed testimony about DNA evidence that the prosecutor said linked all three men to the crimes. Technicians testified they collected the suspects' DNA from swabs from the victims. Some samples contained several suspects' DNA mixed together.

The trial began in mid-January with jury selection, and testimony began Jan. 29. None of the defendants testified. Closing arguments were delivered on Feb. 11.

The men have not been able to post $1 million bail since their arrests, but the judge revoked bail altogether after the verdicts. Watkins remains in the downtown central jail, while Washington and Smith are housed in the George F. Bailey Detention Facility and the Vista Detention Facility respectively.
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