Garrett Harris 2 p.m., May 29
Woman Said Border Patrol Agent “Sucker Punched Me”
A woman who identified herself as a lieutenant in the Navy, and a psychiatrist, and a mother of two children told a Superior Court judge today that she was beaten by an off-duty Border Patrol Agent while the attacker’s male companion egged her on.
The petite woman said she was leaving a circus performance at the Del Mar fairgrounds with her husband, when she saw a man and woman standing near an exit as they approached. She said she recognized the two as the same couple who had performed “gross” and “inappropriate” sex acts in the seats next to herself and her husband during the Cirque du Soleil show.
The female who was near the exit, alleged to be Border Patrol agent Kallie Helwig, 25, was making punches in the air, the alleged victim told a judge today. The male with her, alleged to be Border Patrol agent Gerald Torello, 35, told his female companion, “You can take her babe! I got your back!” The petite woman told the judge, “Next thing I know she sucker punches me. Three times.”
The alleged victim said her husband grabbed the man, Gerald Torello, “to keep him off.”
She said her immediate reaction was “I can’t believe she hit me” and “I have never been punched in the face before.” The woman said when she later learned the two attackers were Border Patrol agents, “My heart dropped.” She feared “it was going to get swept under the rug.” She contacted law enforcement several times over the next couple weeks and when it appeared there was no progress, she said she spoke anonymously to two San Diego news organizations.
Immediately after those organizations published news accounts, the alleged victim said she was contacted by the District Attorney’s office and told that the case would make progress. The date of the alleged attack was May 27, 2012 and the defendants were not charged until July 6. Neither defendant has yet appeared in court, they received their charges “by fax” or “counter arraignment” and through an attorney.
Kallie Helwig, 25, and Gerald Torello, 35, have pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges of lewd acts in public and battery and annoy child. At least two small children reportedly witnessed various sex acts from neighboring seats during the circus show.
Gerald Torello is also charged with misdemeanor criminal threat. The alleged victim said she spoke up when she saw the female defendant performing oral sex on the male defendant. “I said, Hey, how about you guys get a room?” And that is when Gerald Torello allegedly said, “Talk to us again and I’ll kill you,” according to prosecutor Tracy Prior. Because Torello is a Border Patrol agent and certainly has access to a firearm, the prosecutor said the threat must be taken seriously.
Superior Court Judge Daniel Goldstein ordered both defendants, who did not appear in court today, to be present tomorrow morning in his courtroom. Private defense attorneys Emerson Wheat and Richard Muir assured the judge their clients would show up tomorrow.
Attorney Muir said both defendants are “five-year veterans” with the Border Patrol, and that neither agent was in uniform at the time of the alleged acts. Both defendants are now free on their own recognizance and are on administrative duties “because of this case” somewhere in Chula Vista, according to Muir.
The judge did not grant the prosecutor’s request for bail today. Tomorrow the judge is expected to issue a no-contact order on one or both defendants to ensure the safety of the alleged victim.
The alleged victim said, “These are federal agents. They are supposed to exercise some judgment.” She worried, “Will they have another moment where they lack judgment?”
More like this:
- U.S. Border Patrol is still thinking about it — March 21, 2013
- California Border Patrol agent guilty of battery got probation — March 1, 2013
- Jury: female Border Patrol agent guilty of battery — Feb. 11, 2013
- Jury selection began for two California Border Patrol agents — Jan. 31, 2013
- Trial date set for two Border Patrol agents in California — Jan. 14, 2013