On February 15, 1996, a 20-year-old woman called police and said that several skinheads followed her to her home in Rancho Bernardo, California where they threatened her with a knife and raped her.
The victim identified 18-year-old Kevin Baruxes in a photographic lineup. Baruxes and the victim lived in the same apartment complex. Baruxes, who had the word “skinhead” tattooed on his back, was known to spout racist language. He had once made a racial threat against a police officer and also allegedly told the victim’s neighbor that if there were a race war, she would be killed because she was not pure white.
In June 1996, Baruxes went on trial in San Diego County Superior Court. The victim identified him as her attacker. Several family members testified that Baruxes was home with them at the time of the crime.
On June 14, 1996, a jury convicted Baruxes of rape and felony assault. He was sentenced to 18 years to life in prison because the crimes were adjudged to be hate crimes.
Five years later, Baruxes’ attorney and the San Diego County District Attorney received emails from a man who was an ex-fiancé of the victim. The ex-fiancé said that the victim admitted that the wrong man had been convicted and that the crime may never have occurred.
The prosecution and defense began re-investigating the case and found numerous other people who said that the victim was manipulative, deceptive and lied frequently. The investigation found evidence that she claimed she had cancer when she did not; that she faked epileptic seizures; that she claimed her child had died in utero during the eighth month of pregnancy, but her doctors forced her to carry it full term; and that she and her husband had buried the child on the beach.
The victim subsequently claimed to have been bitten and sodomized by Baruxes—claims that were inconsistent with the evidence and matched her pattern of escalating the details of the crime each time she was questioned. The victim also admitted that she was fairly sure that Baruxes was the wrong man.
The prosecution did not oppose Baruxes’s habeas corpus petition, which the San Diego County Superior Court then granted on July 15, 2003 and the charges were dismissed by the prosecution. In June 2004, Baruxes was awarded $258,700 in compensation by the State of California.
- Maurice Possley