Security was unusually tight Thursday as four young men made their first court appearance in last weekend's gang rape at Richmond High School, a crime that brought anguish to students and leaders in the city and sent shock waves throughout the nation.
Later Thursday, police arrested a sixth suspect in the case. A fifth suspect was arrested earlier but has not been charged.
Three defendants, all of them juveniles charged as adults, were wearing bulletproof vests when they were led into Superior Court by a corps of Contra Costa County sheriff's deputies. The three - one of whom had a black eye - looked morose and said nothing as relatives wept in the gallery.
Only one, 15-year-old Cody Ray Smith of San Pablo, entered a plea - not guilty - during the brief arraignment in Richmond.
All four were ordered by Judge Peter Berger to come back to court Thursday for more proceedings in the rape of a 15-year-old Richmond High girl, who was attacked after she left the school's homecoming dance Saturday night.
Authorities say the defendants are among as many as 10 young men who raped the girl over two hours in a courtyard on the campus, while others watched and took photos with cell phones.
Richmond police arrested a sixth suspect, Jose Carlos Montano, 18, Thursday afternoon near his San Pablo home. Montano was booked on felony charges of rape, rape in concert with force, and penetration with a foreign object. His bail was set at $1.3 million.
Litany of charges
Smith and two other defendants, Marcelles James Peter, 17, of Pinole and Ari Abdallah Morales, 16, of San Pablo, are juveniles being charged as adults. They all face felony counts of rape in concert, otherwise known as gang rape, and penetration with a foreign object. Morales also is charged with felony robbery for allegedly stealing the girl's jewelry.
The boys are being held at juvenile hall in Martinez on no bail.
The fourth suspect, 19-year-old Manuel Ortega of Richmond, is charged with rape in concert, robbery and assault causing great bodily injury. He is being held on $1.2 million bail.
All four face potential sentences of life in prison if convicted.
The hearings began at 9:50 a.m., when the three boys were walked into court by an uncharacteristically large contingent of five deputies. The defendants' hands were shackled to their waists, and their chests bulged from the bulletproof vests.
Court officials said the vests were needed because of the potential for vigilante violence.
"This crime was extremely callous and brutal," said Deputy District Attorney Dara Cashman. "We've been getting expressions of outrage from all over the country."
Morales' left eye was blackened, as if he had recently been hit.
Peter's cousin Monquasha Peter of Richmond burst into tears upon seeing him, and her mother, Monica Peter, dabbed her eyes.
Peter's family accused prosecutors of having racial motives. Peter is the only black suspect named in the case. Smith is white, and the other suspects are Latino.
Peter "didn't have anything to do with this," his aunt said. "He said everyone was just walking past, and he just kept moving when he saw something was going on.
"He's a good kid with no criminal record who likes to play soccer," she said. "I am going to prove his innocence.
"My nephew is scared," she added. "He is the one they've arrested who is black, and if they give my nephew a life sentence, I will sue Richmond. There is no way in hell I will see my nephew blamed in this because he is black."
Ortega's hearing immediately followed the boys'. His hands were cuffed behind his back, but he wore no bulletproof vest and had just one deputy minding him.
Two female relatives of Ortega began to cry as he walked in. They declined to comment afterward, other than to say they didn't think he was guilty.
Court records show that in July, Ortega was arrested in San Pablo on misdemeanor charges of possessing a deadly weapon - a dagger - and spraying graffiti on a house and breaking its windows. The case is pending.
A fifth suspect, 21-year-old Salvador Rodriguez of Richmond, has been arrested but has not been charged.
Counseling and discussion sessions were held Thursday at Richmond High to let students vent their despair over the crime and the damage they feel it has done to their community's reputation. They and city leaders plan more gatherings in the coming days.
Authorities say the attack on the girl began when a boy who knew her, possibly Smith, called her over to a group in the courtyard as she was walking by to meet her father after leaving the dance.
Smith is a student at Richmond High, and Ortega dropped out in 2007 after his junior year. Around the same time, Morales transferred from Richmond High to a continuation school, authorities say.
The girl joined the young men in drinking hard liquor but refused to have sex with them, authorities say, and then the group attacked her.
Morales' attorney, Ernie Castillo of Oakland, said his client has no convictions on his record.
"This is a horrible tragedy," Castillo said of the gang rape. "It's hard to understand how something like this could happen at an American high school."
Helping rape victim
Richmond High School is accepting cards and donations for the victim and her family. They can be mailed to the school at 1250 23rd St., Richmond, CA 94804-1011. Make checks out to the Richmond High Student Fund, with "For sex assault victim" written in the memo line.