TAMPA —Sworn statements by a key witness could clear three Walker Middle School students of charges that they raped a flag football teammate last year, according to three of the boys' defense attorneys.
The witness, Randall John Moye III, 15, was among four boys accused of raping their teammate with broom and hockey sticks. Each was charged with four counts of adult felony sexual battery. But the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office allowed Moye to plead guilty to a single count of felony battery in exchange for testimony against his three co-defendants. He gave a deposition Tuesday about what happened.
Rita Peters, chief sex crimes prosecutor, said she was unable to comment Wednesday about what Moye said, but defense attorneys emerged from the deposition talking about a case that once drew broad attention but may now crumble.
Lawyers Norman Cannella Sr., Bryant Camareno and Lanell Williams said Moye exonerated all the boys of sexual battery. Cannella said Moye swore that he witnessed hitting and bullying and saw the victim "poked" with a hockey stick, but saw no sexual assault.
"He confirmed what we had been saying," Camareno said. "There was no removing of the shorts. There was no penetration. There was no sexual battery."
"It was disastrous for the prosecution. It took the teeth out of the state's case," Cannella said. He represents 15-year-old Lee Louis Myers. Two of the charges against Myers already have been dropped because Myers was able to prove he was at baseball practice when some of the assaults allegedly occurred. Cannella said he will seek dismissal of the remaining two charges.
Williams, who represents 16-year-old Diemante J. Roberts, said she expected the state to regroup, "to figure out what charges they have now, if any."
In a statement that Moye gave to police before he became a prosecution witness, the boy wrote that he, Roberts and 15-year-old Raymond Price-Murray were messing around with the victim in the locker room at the Odessa school after practice. Moye said he wrestled the victim to the ground, and Roberts grabbed a hockey stick and "was poking him (the victim) in the butt."
Asked for independent perspective on the case Wednesday, Tampa defense attorney John Fitzgibbons said the impact of Moye's deposition will depend on the exact words he used.
"If he said there was absolutely no penetration, that would be very, very helpful to the defense," Fitzgibbons said. "There could still be a battery charge, but that would be far less severe than sexual battery."
Defense attorneys have said two medical exams showed no signs of sexual assault on the victim. A state crime lab analysis could not determine whether traces of DNA found on a hockey stick and a broom belonged to any of the boys.
Times staff writer Colleen Jenkins contributed to this report.