Surveillance Video and New Information on Accuser Could Change FIU Rape Case

May 11, 2011 by David S. Seltzer

As a Miami-Dade sex crimes criminal defense lawyer, I know cases of rape and sexual assault can frequently pit one person’s word — and credibility — against another’s. So I was very interested to see a May 8 article in the Miami Herald suggesting that the truth in the Garrett Wittels rape case may be more complicated than it originally seemed. Wittels is a talented hitter for Florida International University’s baseball team, and the most high-profile of three young men accused of raping two girls of 17 at a resort in the Bahamas. The girls’ names are being withheld because of their age, and that means information on their families is limited. But according to the Herald, newly released surveillance video seems to contradict the stories the girls gave the police. Perhaps even more damaging is the news that the father of one girl has been sued for an alleged plan to have a woman falsify a rape allegation and a racially charged fight at a pro sporting event.

Jonathan Oberti and Robert Rothschild are accused along with Wittels. The three young men were in the Bahamas to celebrate the birthday of another friend at a resort and casino. There, they met the two accusers, both 17. Their stories about the night differ, but both sides agree that the girls drank alcohol before meeting the young men (minus Oberti) and joining them at the casino. They also agree that there was sex after the girls followed the accused to their hotel room and met up with Oberti, although the accused say the sex was consensual. The video contradicts the girls’ statement that they left the bar themselves and were followed, showing one leaving hand in hand with Wittels. It also shows a lot of physical flirting and kissing in the casino, which the Herald said the girls frequently initiated.

The allegations against one girl’s father have to do with a sports organization not named here to avoid identifying the daughter. A letter from the organization’s law firm accused the father of planning to hire an actress to claim she was sexually assaulted at an event put on by the sports organization. It also accused him of planning to stage a physical fight in the stands to make it look like the organization was hostile to minorities. Later, the same organization sued the father for setting up tents outside two sporting venues, where he planned to make “Girls Gone Nutz” videos in the style of “Girls Gone Wild.” The organization received a restraining order preventing the father from representing himself as working for or with it.

Of course, the father’s alleged or actual misconduct does not affect whether the girls’ allegations are true. But if I were the south Florida sex crimes defense attorney representing the accused young men, I’d investigate whether there was more than a coincidental relationship between the allegations against the father and the current case. It’s disturbing to see that the father accused of planning to make false allegations of rape for financial gain — particularly since there are apparent inconsistencies in the girls’ story. False rape charges can ruin reputations and careers even if the accused is never convicted. A conviction adds prison time and possible sex offender registration requirements after release. As a Fort Lauderdale sex crimes defense lawyer, I vigorously fight false allegations, using the facts as well as back stories explaining the accuser’s possible ulterior motives.

If you’re facing charges of rape, sexual assault or other crimes in south Florida, you’re facing prison, a possible end to your career and other life-altering penalties. For the best possible defense, you should call Seltzer Law, P.A. right away. For a free, confidential case evaluation, send us a message online or call 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333).