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Haidl Trial’s Jane Doe Has $26 Mil Suit

Orange County- Now that a judge has imposed a prison term on the attackers, the sordid, painful four-year-long case involving Gregory Haidl and two co-defendants – and the woman who says they destroyed her – shifts to the civil courtroom, which may prove the ugliest show yet.

The victim, now 20 and known publicly as Jane Doe, has sued the three young men convicted of sexually assaulting her while a video camera rolled and she lay unconscious on a pool table one July night in 2002. And she is suing Haidl’s father, a rich former Orange County assistant sheriff, alleging that he should have known of the drug- and alcohol-fueled parties raging in his Corona del Mar home, where the attack occurred.

But, as part of her $26-million lawsuit, Jane Doe is also targeting others who, she says, subjected her to years of “harassment, intimidation and torture” after the attack itself.

In a rare legal move, her suit names Haidl defense attorney Joseph G. Cavallo and two defense investigators, John Warren and Shawn Smigel. She says the defense staked out her Rancho Cucamonga house, went through her trash, stalked her, improperly obtained her medical records, broadcast her identity and once cornered her in a parking lot while snapping pictures.

“We’re taking these people to task about what they did,” said Jane Doe’s attorney, Sheldon Lodmer. “They crossed the line in terms of appropriate legal defense.”

Cavallo said he did nothing improper in trying to defend a client who could have faced life in prison, and characterized the lawsuit as “revenge” for his zealous representation.

“If they think what I did in the criminal case was aggressive, they’re attacking me personally now,” Cavallo said. “By the time I get done with Jane Doe, the case won’t be worth $10. I know more about Jane Doe than her lawyer and her family.”

During the criminal trial, Cavallo and other defense attorneys cast her as a would-be porn star who merely faked unconsciousness on the tape, cross-examining her relentlessly and underscoring her earlier sexual behavior. Cavallo, planning to represent himself in the civil trial, said he would question her even more thoroughly, unencumbered by the rape shield law that limits inquiry into her past during a criminal trial.

“Only 10 to 20% of what we had on Jane Doe and her family came out during the criminal case,” Cavallo said. “They’re going to rue the day they brought me into this case.”

Doe’s attorney, Lodmer, said he anticipated that Cavallo would attack his client.

“I’m sure he will use this opportunity, and she’s ready to stand up to it,” Lodmer said. “He can try and do what he wants. He made life miserable for everyone else in this case.”

Jane Doe was 16 at the time of the attack, and the three defendants – Haidl, Kyle Nachreiner and Keith Spann – all 17. The videotape, with Haidl running the camera, depicts the boys violating her limp body with a host of objects, including a pool cue, a lighted cigarette and a Snapple bottle. The first trial ended in a deadlock, with jurors leaning toward acquittal. A second jury convicted them of sexual assault, but not rape, and on March 10 a Superior Court Judge sentenced them all to six-year prison terms.

During the sentencing hearing, Jane Doe spoke in detail about how the attack, and its aftermath, caused her life to unravel.

“Before July 5, 2002, I was a normal 16-year-old teenager,” she said. “I was outgoing, cheerful, loving, compassionate and trusting.” She said she was a straight-A student who was on her high school’s volleyball, track and cross-country teams and added she had “an extremely close relationship with my parents.”

She said she found out about the attack, which she did not remember, after Newport Beach police informed her father. After Haidl and his co-defendants were arrested, fliers materialized in Jane Doe’s neighborhood identifying her as the accuser. She said she fled to another high school, seeking anonymity but said defense investigators tracked her there, stood in the parking lot and screamed out her name.

Now, she said, she possessed “very little self-esteem and I trust no one.” Ultimately, according to her lawyer, the trauma of the case drove her to methamphetamine abuse.

The defense has sharply disputed her depiction of the attack’s effect on her life, saying she had serious emotional problems long before that summer night in 2002 and a strained relationship with her parents, who viewed her as an “out of control” teenager who left the house without saying where she was going and stayed out all night.

Jane Doe “has been unaffected to a substantial degree as a result of that evening,” Cavallo said.

Cavallo said defense investigators did not scream out Jane Doe’s name at her new school, as alleged. “Everyone knew who Jane Doe was anyway,” Cavallo said. He said investigators were forced to stake out her parents to serve them with court subpoenas.

William Kopeny, an attorney working for Cavallo, said his client’s behavior was protected under the doctrine of “litigation privilege,” which holds that a lawyer’s actions in connection with a court case cannot form the basis of a lawsuit.

“It’s a very wide-ranging privilege,” Kopeny said.

The criminal convictions of Haidl, Nachreiner and Spann provide a built-in advantage for Jane Doe in the civil arena, at least in the case against them. In civil court, plaintiffs must prove their case by a “preponderance of the evidence,” a much lighter burden than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard already met in the criminal case.

“The case against the three defendants who were convicted should not be too difficult,” said Lodmer, adding that he expected depositions in the case to begin in the next two months. He acknowledged that the case against Cavallo involved far less trodden legal terrain.

“We’re not suing [Cavallo] for anything he did or said inside that courtroom,” Lodmer said. “We’re suing him for what he authorized outside that courtroom.”

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