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THE BOYS NEXT DOOR
Bernard Lefkowitz
June 23, 1997
From an early age the jocks of suburban Glen Ridge pushed the limits, and no one ever pushed back. Then one day these princes of the playing fields lured a retarded girl to a basement—and raped her
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June 23, 1997

The Boys Next Door

From an early age the jocks of suburban Glen Ridge pushed the limits, and no one ever pushed back. Then one day these princes of the playing fields lured a retarded girl to a basement—and raped her

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To prove that the defendants committed these acts, the prosecution advanced two theories. The first one: The defendants knew or should have known that Leslie was "mentally defective"—a legal term meaning that a person was incapable of consenting to sexual relations. The second theory: The defendants used force or coercion to violate Leslie. The jury members did not have to buy both propositions. If the prosecutor persuaded them that one of the theories was true, that was enough to convict the four.

The case didn't conform to the stereotypical view of rape, in which a woman is beaten or held at knife point while someone sexually assaults her. One of the prosecutors' biggest problems was that Leslie apparently had never said no—never openly resisted the advances of her "friends." The first task of the prosecution would be to persuade the jurors that Leslie could not say no, that she was so "mentally defective" that she was incapable of consenting to these acts.

To make that case, the prosecutors planned to call expert witnesses, psychologists and psychiatrists, as well as Leslie's friends and family members. They would testify to her limited comprehension of social relations and sexual situations. The prosecutors also planned to emphasize how easily Leslie could be led by others.

It came down to this: The prosecution had to persuade jurors that Leslie lacked the capacity to understand what the boys were doing to her and that it went against her nature—her mental and emotional makeup—to resist, even if she did.

The most important witness would be Leslie Faber.

The defense lawyers had no choice but to argue that Leslie was mentally capable of consenting or to establish that the guys didn't realize she was incapable. The heart of the defense strategy was to shift the responsibility for the sexual activity to Leslie and pray that she would make a poor witness. There was also the down-and-dirty approach. That required the defense lawyers to assert explicitly or insinuate in every question and argument that Leslie had vast sexual experience and that what happened to her in the basement was just one in a long series of sexual encounters. They were prepared to play this card.

With each prosecution witness the defense strategy became more evident: To portray this young woman who had an IQ of 49 as a calculating seductress, a sexually voracious adolescent. The jurors must have wondered: Who was the real Leslie Faber?

They got their answer a little after noon on Wednesday, Dec. 10, 1992, when Essex County prosecutor Robert Laurino stood and said, "The state calls Leslie Faber." They saw a tall, plump young woman with dark close-cropped hair settle into the witness chair. The four defendants sat facing her. As Leslie answered Laurino's questions, her hometown heroes—Kyle, Kevin, Chris and Bryant—stared stone-faced at her.

Fumbling with her bracelet, at times burying her face in her hands, Leslie described her "romantic" walk with Chris to the Scherzers' basement. The scene, she said, was "like a movie.... Well, there were chairs there and, like, a big couch and stuff."

Leslie went on to give a relatively coherent, clear and consistent account of what had happened to her. Bryant Grober, she said "told me to suck his dick.... I did suck his dick." She said Kyle got the "fire-engine red" broomstick and put a plastic bag slicked with Vaseline over the broom handle and tied it with a rubber band.

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