With the purported victim admitting under oath that she fabricated her story, prosecutors on Thursday dismissed all charges against five Northern California residents accused of abducting and assaulting the woman -- a prostitute -- who claimed the defendants had tried to force her to work for them.
Ana Karen Ceja, 20, Jerry Jermaine Landers, 21, and brothers Ibrahim Malik, 25, Muhammad Malik, 32, and Yaya Malik, 23 -- all of San Jose -- were released from custody after the Riverside County District Attorney's Office informed Superior Court Judge Irma Asberry it did not wish to proceed with prosecuting the accused.
The decision came after the alleged victim, 18-year-old Jasmine Stallion of Bakersfield, recanted her testimony from the first part of a preliminary hearing Wednesday.
"Based on the ethical obligation of the D.A.'s Office to pursue only those charges which are supported by the evidence, the decision was made to dismiss all charges," agency spokesman John Hall said.
During two hours of testimony Wednesday, Stallion claimed she had been snatched from a Compton street, driven to several locations, sexually assaulted, then told she had no choice but to work in a sex-for-money operation run by the defendants out of a Moreno Valley motel.
While being cross-examined Thursday, Stallion disavowed her previous statements, telling a defense attorney she'd made everything up at the direction of her pimp, "Special," a south Los Angeles gang member who sought revenge against the defendants for trying to recruit Stallion for their operation.
"This case was a total over-reach by the district attorney," Ambrosio Rodriguez, Ceja's attorney, told City News Service. "The filing of this case was for headlines."
Rodriguez, a former prosecutor, criticized how the D.A.'s office handled the fact-finding element of the matter, never bothering, he said, to fully corroborate Stallion's story, instead accepting everything she told investigators without digging deeper.
"We don't even know if Jasmine Stallion is her real name," he said. "That's the name she used in online postings. How many people in the escort business do that?"
The defendants were arrested Aug. 16 and charged with multiple felonies, including kidnapping to commit rape, human trafficking, attempted pimping and forced oral copulation, with sentence-enhancing weapons allegations.
Stallion alleged Muhammad Malik was giving most of the orders and proclaimed that he would be her "pimp." She testified that after abducting her, the men drove east, eventually stopping at a Roadway Inn in Artesia, where Muhammad Malik and Yaya Malik instructed her to orally copulate them in the vehicle.
According to her testimony, the men drove her the following day to a Best Western motel on Elder Avenue in Moreno Valley, where she was introduced to Ceja, who said she worked for the foursome as a prostitute, making "a lot of money."
"They wanted me to go make some money by selling my body," Stallion testified. "I felt like I would get beat if I didn't."
The witness said she escaped from the motel while Ceja was entertaining a client. Sheriff's deputies were called to the location and arrested all five defendants without incident.
During testimony Wednesday, Stallion acknowledged having free use of a mobile phone to send text messages during her supposed ordeal. She also admitted working as a street walker in the San Fernando Valley and Compton for a month prior to her pseudo abduction.
—City News Service