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Thursday, March 9, 2000

Trial of men accused of
raping teen goes to jury

By Debra Barayuga


Was the sex forced or was it consensual?

That is the question jurors are deliberating in the trial of three men accused in the October 1998 sexual assault of a 17-year-old girl.

After nearly a week of testimony in which the victim testified for nearly five hours, the state and defense attorneys yesterday turned the case over to jurors.

Mario Crawley, 28, also known as "Quick," and Habib Shabazz, 22, also known as "T-bone," are charged with first-degree sexual assault for the incident in a Coconut Plaza hotel room. Crawley is also charged with two counts of attempted first-degree sexual assault. Lloyd Swanson, 20, is charged with being an accomplice to first-degree sexual assault.

The three are reportedly associated with the Abyss, a gang that law enforcement officials contend is involved in prostitution.

The girl testified that Crawley and Shabazz forced her to have intercourse and perform oral or anal sex. Swanson allegedly told her, "Shut up, b----."

Defense attorneys argued that sex with Crawley and Shabazz was consensual.

The defense characterized the girl as "street-smart," and questioned her credibility and motives in making the allegations.

They said she had experience well beyond her age, and knew what she was getting into when she got into their car and later agreed to accompany the men to their hotel room to take a shower and "kick it," or hang out with them.

If she had intended to leave after showering, why did she ask that a maintenance man be called to fix the air conditioning or walk out half-dressed with Crawley to another floor of the hotel to get ice for drinks, said Michael Green, Crawley's attorney, during closing arguments yesterday.

The girl testified she begged the two to stop, saying she had a boyfriend and didn't want to do what they were subjecting her to, Deputy Prosecutor Chris Van Marter said. She was hysterical and crying by the time they stopped and she managed to grab her clothes and flee, he said. If sex was consensual, she wouldn't have fled from the room.

In hindsight, she exercised poor judgment by getting into the car with the men and agreeing to go to their hotel room in the first place, he said. But in her mind, it wasn't unusual given her rough background. She was placed in a foster home at age 4 and hung out on the streets of Waikiki.

But in using poor judgment, "she did not lose her right to say "no" and it did not give the defendants the right to take advantage of her, Van Marter said.

Emmanuel Guerrero, attorney for Shabazz, said there was no physical evidence showing she had been raped because that's not the way it happened.

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