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First of Five Defendants Innocent in Restaurant Gang Rape Trial

March 25, 1996

CANTON, N.Y. (AP) _ A jury Monday returned an innocent verdict for the first of four men to be tried for the alleged gang rape of a woman who had passed out drunk in a restaurant five years ago.

The victim claimed Mark Hartle was one of five men who raped her after she had passed out in the bathroom of the Casablanca Restaurant in Gouverneur in October 1991.

The restaurant’s bartender, Gregory L. Streeter, pleaded guilty, received probation and testified against Hartle in the first of an expected four separate trials.

The victim, a divorced mother of two, began sobbing after the verdict was read, and as she was led to a conference room, she could be heard crying out, ``No, he raped me!″

The six-man, six-woman jury took about four hours to find Hartle innocent of first-degree rape charges. Hartle had faced up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

The case drew national attention when the local district attorney at that time allowed the five men to plea bargain to a misdemeanor charge of sexual misconduct in June 1993 and receive a $750 fine.

The plea bargain generated an outcry from women’s groups, and the men were eventually indicted again on felony rape and sexual abuse charges in October 1995, based in part on information provided by Streeter.

Although the victim identified herself publicly during her crusade for justice, she has asked for anonymity during the trial. The Associated Press, in accordance with its policy of not identifying victims of sex crimes, is complying with her request.

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