Guilt or Innocence? 

Attorneys search for the truth in preliminary hearing for child-rape case.

Three defendants returned to court TUESDAY, each charged with one count of child rape. The defendants and brothers -- Mario, Jamaal, and David Flynn -- are accused of raping a 12-year-old runaway in an Oakhaven apartment in October. During the preliminary hearing before General Sessions Court judge Louis Montesi Jr., the now 13-year-old plaintiff in the case testified to events that took place during the three days in question. While preliminary reports stated that the incidents took place against the will of the plaintiff, defense attorneys challenged her statements.

After an unsuccessful request by the girl's attorney to conduct the hearing in a closed courtroom, the hearing began with the plaintiff telling her version of the incident, which began on October 1st. According to the girl, after running away from home on a Friday morning, she was forced at knife and gun point into a car driven by defendant Mario Flynn. She described the first rape by Mario at an unnamed hotel. Afterwards, she says, she was taken to the Somerset Apartments in Oakhaven to an apartment shared with the other defendants.

For the next two days, the plaintiff said she was raped by the defendants and their acquaintances. The plaintiff also described being taken to abandoned apartments for additional rapes. She testified that she was unsure as to the total number of men involved in the incidents, but that she was also forced to drink large amounts of beer and smoke marijuana.

During a four-lawyer cross-examination that lasted for about an hour, defense attorneys challenged several of the plaintiff's initial statements and testimony.

The plaintiff, dressed in a purple coat with black bows, cried at times during the questioning. When questioned by defense attorney Greg Carman regarding the initial meeting with Mario Flynn, the plaintiff testified that she told the defendant that she was in fact 17 years old and would soon be having a birthday. When asked if she had lied to Mario about her age, the plaintiff nodded "yes." She also testified about having sexual relations with a female while in the Flynns' apartment. During the weekend, that female braided the plaintiff's hair, according to her testimony.

"There is some doubt as to her credibility. That's why we are here," Carman told the Flyer.

He would not say whether or not the incidents with the Flynn brothers were consensual. "This child was 12 years old at the time and that makes it rape of a child. She was four days from her 13th birthday, which would have made it statutory rape." Under Tennessee law, rape of a child is a more serious offence than statutory rape.

The Flynn brothers' defense attorneys also noted that the plaintiff never took advantage of opportunities to escape from the defendants or seek help. She testified there was a phone in the brothers' apartment but did not use it to call for assistance. The ordeal finally came to an end when the girl's father found her walking by herself in another area of the apartment complex.

Also at issue in the case is the involvement of an apartment security guard who, according to the plaintiff, also raped her. According to the girl's testimony, that man also attempted to contact her grandmother. The plaintiff used a false name when talking to the grandmother in order to avoid punishment for running away. Judge Montesi disallowed extensive testimony about the involvement of the security guard, who may be involved in further litigation in the case.

The plaintiff insisted that she did not make up the rape story to avoid punishment for running away from home.

Judge Montesi found probable cause to send the case to a grand jury. •

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