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Teen convicted of kidnapping, raping two girls in Rancho Penasquitos park

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A 17-year-old boy was convicted Friday of kidnapping and sexually assaulting two teenage girls in a dark Rancho Penasquitos park last year.

After four days of deliberations, a jury convicted Leonel Contreras of 21 counts, including conspiracy, kidnapping, forcible rape and sodomy.

Contreras -- who was prosecuted as an adult -- faces multiple life terms in state prison when he is sentenced Dec. 5 by Judge Peter Deddeh.

"It really took two courageous young ladies who came in -- a difficult job for them -- and explained to the jury exactly what happened to them the night of Sept. 3. 2011," said Deputy District Attorney Wendy Patrick.

A separate jury reached a verdict last week against 17-year-old co-defendant William Steven Rodriguez, but it was sealed until the Contreras jury reached verdicts. Rodriguez will be in court Monday to hear verdicts in his case.

Contreras' attorney, Michael Begovich, told the jury that police coerced a false confession from his client and prosecutors lacked evidence tying the defendant to the crime.

Patrick countered that Contreras told police and his family that he was involved in the brutal attack and that DNA and other evidence proved he was guilty.

Patrick said there wasn't anything police did to illicit a false confession from Contreras.

"There's nothing about it that indicates it was false," the prosecutor said in her closing rebuttal argument.

Begovich said the case had not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

"This is the highest standard of proof that we have," Begovich told the jury.

The attorney said testimony from a woman who was with Contreras the night of Sept. 3, 2011, proves he wasn't at the rape crime scene. Begovich also said there was no DNA linking his client to the sexual assaults.

"My client wasn't there," Begovich said, suggesting that Rodriguez met up with some other Latino male after spending the day with Contreras.

Begovich said one of the victims failed to identify Contreras as an attacker.

After a 3 1/2-hour interrogation, detectives "broke" Contreras and got him to admit to something he didn't do, Begovich told the jury.

But Patrick said everything the then- 15-and 16-year-old victims said corroborates what Contreras told police in his confession.

She said Contreras couldn't be excluded as a contributor of DNA found on a Padre shirt worn by Rodriguez the night of the attack.

Jane Doe 2 said she and Jane Doe 1 were attacked after 8 p.m. as they sat under a tree during a walk from a family party on Spindletop Road.

The teen said the assailants took her and her friend up a slope and into a dark grassy area. She testified that she struggled with the man who held her -- who she identified as Contreras -- and bit him. He responded by putting a bandana in her mouth, and "said if I tried to scream he would hurt me," the girl testified.

Jane Doe 2 said Contreras raped and sexually assaulted her -- holding a knife to her neck -- then switched partners with Rodriguez, who committed the same sex acts against her. The witness said her attackers switched partners again and continued the sexual assault.

She said the sexual intercourse with both assailants was painful because she was a virgin.

Patrick said the defendants were staying at Rodriguez's aunt's house nearby when they attacked the girls.

After they were caught, Contreras told police that he and Rodriguez initially set out to rob someone, but changed their plans were they saw the girls, the prosecutor said.

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