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First Trial Begins in Alleged Gang Rape

May 28, 1991

NEW YORK (AP) _ A woman was pressured to drink vodka and then sexually assaulted by five lacrosse players and another student athlete at St. John’s University, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

The opening statement came in the first of three scheduled trials stemming from the March 1, 1990, incident at the 19,000-student campus, the nation’s largest Catholic university.

Assistant district attorney Peter Reese told the jury that the woman, then 21, was assaulted by five members of the varsity lacrosse team and a member of the rifle club after she was forced to drink vodka-laced orange juice.

Reese said the lacrosse players then conspired to cover up the attack, which only came to light when one player agreed to cooperate in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

On trial in state court are: Andrew Draghi, 21; Walter Gabrinowitz, 22; and Matthew Grandinetti, 22, all of Bethpage, Long Island. Each is charged with first-degree sodomy and faces a maximum prison term of 25 years if convicted.

Michael Calandrillo, 21, also of Bethpage and the only defendant not a member of the lacrosse team, will stand trial later on a charge of first- degree sodomy. Two other students have been charged with lesser offenses.

Reese said the attack began when Calandrillo offered to drive the woman home after a rifle club practice but stopped at his fraternity house for gas money.

Calandrillo invited her in and forced her to drink two cups of a vodka-and- orange-juice mixture, even after she said she had a bad reaction to alcohol, Reese said. When the woman finally drank, he toasted her with a beer and said, ″Here’s to college days,″ the prosecutor said.

When the victim began to feel sick and sleepy and asked to go home, Calandrillo assaulted her while she ″fell in and out of consciousness,″ Reese said. Calandrillo then left her half-naked in a room and the other defendants - at least one of whom was wearing a mask - sodomized her, he said. When two of the defendants took her to another house where lacrosse teammates lived and ″bragged about what she had done for them,″ another student stopped the assault, Reese said.

Gabrinowitz and Calandrillo finally took her home, telling her she had ″freaked out on them″ and calling her a drug addict, Reese said.

Reese said the lacrosse team conspired to keep the incident a secret until team member Thomas Dean came forward in exchange for immunity.

Grandinetti’s attorney, Benedict Gullo Jr., called Dean a ″liar who would do anything and say anything for his own self-interest.″

Gabrinowitz’s lawyer, Stephen Scaring, said the case was ″about consent, about her state of mind then, not about later.″ Scaring said she was embarrassed and hurt that Calandrillo had rejected her.