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Supreme Court raises convictions in “Wolf-Pack” sexual assault case to 15 years

The five members of “La Manada,” as the group of friends is known, have been found guilty by the judges of rape, and not the lesser charge of sexual abuse

One of the members of “La Manada,” Ángel Boza, today in a Seville court.
One of the members of “La Manada,” Ángel Boza, today in a Seville court.

Spain’s Supreme Court on Friday increased the prison sentence for five men at the center of the so-called “Wolf-Pack” rape case. The judges ruled that the defendants, who sexually assaulted an 18-year-old at the 2016 Running of the Bulls fiestas in Pamplona, are guilty of rape and not sexual abuse. They had been convicted of the latter charge by the provincial court in Navarre that originally tried the case.

The Supreme Court today heard arguments from both defense lawyers and the prosecution in relation to the Navarre court’s ruling. All five of the men were detained on Friday, according to police sources, on the basis that they presented a flight risk.

The original ruling by the three-judge panel in Navarre was highly controversial

All the members of the gang – José Ángel Prenda, Jesús Escudero, Ángel Pozas, Alfonso Jesús Cabezuelo and Antonio Manuel Guerrero – have had their sentences increased, but in the case of the latter, the court added another two years for having stolen the victim’s cellphone after the sexual assault. The judges also increased the compensation owed to the youngster to €100,000.

The Supreme Court’s decision is in line with the ongoing demands of not just the prosecution, but also women’s organizations, legal experts and even political parties since the first ruling was made public in April 2018.

José Ángel Prenda after his detention.
José Ángel Prenda after his detention.

The original sentence from a three-judge panel in Navarre was highly controversial, and sparked widespread protests across Spain for its perceived leniency.

The decision also sparked a public debate about the definition of sexual violence, and about whether the Spanish justice system is addressing it adequately.

The Supreme Court’s decision is in line with the ongoing demands of not just the prosecution, but also women’s organizations, legal experts and even political parties

The case was appealed before the Supreme Court after the High Court of Navarre ratified the original sentence in a 3-2 vote in December of last year. Two members of the five-judge panel had entered a dissenting opinion, asking for the prison sentence to be raised to 14 years.

The original April 2018 ruling found that the victim’s consent was compromised when she was led into a building lobby by the men, who took turns having intercourse with her and making cellphone recordings of the sex acts. Even though the judges described the woman as “stunned and unable to react,” they concluded that there had been no violence or intimidation, two necessary requirements for rape under Spanish law.

In its ruling, the lower court said that according to Supreme Court case law, there can only be violence if physical aggression is used against a victim – an act the judges ruled did not occur.

In September 2018, four members of La Manada returned to court in a separate case, accused of sexually abusing a 21-year-old woman in a moving vehicle while she was asleep, and also capturing their actions on a cellphone and then sharing the recordings via WhatsApp. This incident took place just two months before the Running of the Bulls fiestas.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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