A video that four men hoped would exonerate them of the rape of a Louisiana State University (LSU) student has instead proven that a crime did occur, according to a judge – hours after an attorney for two of the suspects claimed it shows the late 19-year-old had consented to sex.
Kaivon Deondre Washington, 18, a 17-year-old male who has not been named due to his age, Everette Lee, 28, and Casen Carver, 18, have been charged with the rape of 19-year-old student Madison Brooks, before she was killed by a car.
Brooks, a 19-year-old Alpha Phi sorority sister, had spent the night of 14 January at Reggie’s Bar in Baton Rouge where she allegedly met her attackers.
Investigators said Brooks was then sexually assaulted by the four men – aged 17 to 28 – in a car before they dropped her off along a road in a neighbourhood near Pelican Lakes Parkway in the early hours of 15 January.
A driver then hit the 19-year-old and she died hours later in hospital.
Mr Washington and the 17-year-old have been charged with third-degree rape. Mr Lee, who is Mr Washington’s uncle, and Mr Carver, 18, are charged with principal to rape.
The three adult suspects appeared in court on Tuesday where their bond was set and prosecutors vowed to upgrade charges against them.
At the bond hearing, 19th Judicial District Judge Brad Myers said that he had watched a video filmed by one of the four suspects inside the car with Brooks.
The judge said that the video shows the suspects “callously” laughing at the drunk 19-year-old woman as she slurred her words, reported local outlet WAFB.
He also reviewed footage taken from Reggie’s Bar which showed Brooks falling over and struggling to stand in front of at least one of the suspects before they left the bar together. Her blood alcohol level was four times the legal limit at the time of her death and her autopsy shows injuries from a sexual assault, according to an arrest warrant.
The judge concluded that – based on the two videos and statements made by Mr Carver to investigators – he said it was clear that a crime had occurred that fateful night.
“The evidence to me is clear,” he said.
The suspects had hoped that the footage shot inside the car would prove their innocence with an attorney for Mr Washington and the 17-year-old claiming hours earlier that it shows she consented to having sex with the suspects.
Attorney Ron Haley told KSLA ahead of the court appearance that the video shows Brooks “was intoxicated” but not to point that she could not “lawfully give consent or answer questions” during sex with the suspects.
He described what happened to the LSU student as “a tragedy” but “definitely not a crime”.
“Absolutely not a rape. Listen this is a tragedy, definitely not a crime,” Mr Haley said.
“Can you tell, that she was intoxicated, yes. To the point under the law that you say you’re in a drunken stupor, to the point that you cannot lawfully give consent or answer questions, absolutely that was not the case.”
Mr Haley also said that Brooks allegedly told the suspects that she was going to order an Uber after an argument unfolded.
“Based on a disagreement, she got out of the vehicle. She indicated she was getting an Uber,” Mr Haley alleged. “I want the public to know, these young men or really the driver of the vehicle and the young men that were in there, did not put her off on the side of the road.”
But, instead of supporting the suspects’ version of events, Judge Myers said the video was evidence of a crime against the 19-year-old.
Now, prosecutors in the case have also vowed to upgrade the charges against the alleged attackers. Prosecutor Stuart Theriot said at the hearing that the state would seek upgraded charges of first-degree rape and planned to convene a grand jury in the case.
Mr Washington had his bond set by 19th Judicial District Judge Brad Myers at $150,000. Mr Lee was given a $75,000 bond and Mr Carver was given a $50,000 bond.
If they post bond, they are ordered not to make social media posts about the case or make contact with Brooks’ family, to submit for random drug testing and be placed on house arrest and wear an ankle monitor.
The 17-year-old’s bond hearing has been postponed to February.
According to an arrest warrant, suspect Mr Carver told investigators that Brooks had been “very unstable on her feet, was not able to keep her balance, and was unable to speak clearly without slurring her words”.
But, despite her state of intoxication, two of the suspects proceeded to have sex with her inside the car, Mr Carver told police. He later told police that he “felt uncomfortable and hated it.”
When asked by investigators if he believed Brooks was too impaired to consent, Mr Carver reportedly said, “I guess.”
Questions are now also being asked of the Louisiana bar where the victim spent her last night.
At 19, Brooks is under the legal drinking age of 21. Three of the males charged over her alleged rape are also underage.
The Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control announced on Tuesday that it was issuing an emergency suspension for Reggie’s Bar, citing “the seriousness of the allegations and the potential threat to public safety”.
“This action immediately suspends the service or sale of alcoholic beverages at these locations,” the statement said.
“An emergency hearing will be held next month to determine what penalties (if any) should be imposed following a presentation of the evidence.”
Kris Perret, an attorney for the bar, said in a statement to NOLA.com that the owner “has fully cooperated with the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, Louisiana State Police and the East Baton Rouge ABC office since their first requests for assistance in their ongoing investigations and will continue to do so”.
As well as the state agency, LSU President William F Tate has said that the university will also investigate why the establishment was serving alcohol to minors.
“Madison was a daughter, a granddaughter, a sister, a niece, a classmate, and a friend to many of you. By all accounts, she was an amazing young woman with limitless potential,” Mr Tate said in a statement.
“She should not have been taken from us in this way. What happened to her was evil, and our legal system will parcel out justice.”
He continued: “In the coming days, we will call a meeting with these business owners to discuss how their responsibilities directly impact the safety of our students. We will work openly against any business that doesn’t join us in efforts toward creating a safer environment for our students. Enough is enough.”
Brooks’ death has rocked the college community and her sorority.
“We are grieving the sudden and tragic loss of our sister, Madison Brooks, following the accident that took her life. Madison was a sophomore and made a lasting impact on all of us,” the statement read.
“She was also a hero and was able to donate her heart and kidneys to save others. We send our deepest sympathies to her family and friends during this incredibly difficult time. And we respectfully ask for time and space so we may support each other in our healing process. AOE”