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Caleb Womack, one of four Pittsfield teens accused of raping a UMass student, will remain held on $10,000 bail

  • Caleb Womack listens during his arraignment Friday at Hampshire County Courthouse.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Caleb Womack listens during his arraignment Friday at Hampshire County Courthouse.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Caleb Womack, second from left, during his arrignment Friday at Hampshire County Courthouse. He is with his attorney, Raymond Jacoub, right.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Caleb Womack, second from left, during his arrignment Friday at Hampshire County Courthouse. He is with his attorney, Raymond Jacoub, right.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Caleb Womack is taken from the courtroom after his arrignment Friday at Hampshire County Courthouse.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Caleb Womack is taken from the courtroom after his arrignment Friday at Hampshire County Courthouse.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Caleb Womack, left, is taken from the courtroom after his arrignment Friday at Hampshire County Courthouse.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Caleb Womack, left, is taken from the courtroom after his arrignment Friday at Hampshire County Courthouse.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Caleb Womack, left, is taken from the courtroom after his arrignment Friday at Hampshire County Courthouse.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Caleb Womack, left, is taken from the courtroom after his arrignment Friday at Hampshire County Courthouse.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Caleb Womack listens during his arraignment Friday at Hampshire County Courthouse.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Caleb Womack, second from left, during his arrignment Friday at Hampshire County Courthouse. He is with his attorney, Raymond Jacoub, right.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Caleb Womack is taken from the courtroom after his arrignment Friday at Hampshire County Courthouse.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Caleb Womack, left, is taken from the courtroom after his arrignment Friday at Hampshire County Courthouse.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Caleb Womack, left, is taken from the courtroom after his arrignment Friday at Hampshire County Courthouse.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

Citing the seriousness of the charges, the potential penalties and Womack’s lack of ties to the area, Hampshire Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Ford denied a request to reduce bail.

“Given the nature of the allegations, the court denies the reduction without prejudice,” Ford said. That ruling means the question of bail could be taken up again if the case proceeds to a grand jury indictment.

Defense attorney Raymond Jacoub of Pittsfield argued that Womack, 17, has no prior record, comes from a family of limited financial means and presents no flight risk. Jacoub suggested a bail of $1,000. He also argued that the incident was not a rape.

Jacoub said that the alleged victim didn’t use the term “rape” but instead “gang bang” in conversations with his client after that night, which, he argued in court, was a “euphemistic” term for consensual group sex.

“It was a gross act of bad judgment,” Jacoub said. “Not a sexual assault.”

Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Jennifer Suhl argued that the incidents was a “very horrific assault.”

Suhl said the alleged victim cried and used the words “no” and “stop” during the assault and could not scream out nor cry for help because she was fading in and out of consciousness.

Suhl argued that if Womack posted bail and returned to Windsor Locks, Conn., where his family now lives, the state would have a difficult time monitoring him.

Jacoub argued that if Womack were released and living in Connecticut, he would be physically closer to Hampshire County than he would be if living in Pittsfield.

Suhl said if the case proceeds to the grand jury as expected, the charges against Womack likely will change from three counts of rape, which carry a potential penalty of 20 years in prison, to three counts of aggravated rape, which carry a potential life sentence.

Ford said he found the $10,000 “not unreasonable.”

Womack, along with Emmanuel Bile, Justin King, and Adam Liccardi, all 18, were arraigned Monday in Eastern Hampshire District Court, each pleading not guilty to three counts of rape. Liccardi faces a fourth count for allegedly continuing to rape the victim after the other three had left her dorm room.

All of the accused had bail set at $10,000 at their arraignments. Information about the bail status of the other defendants was not available from the court, per order of Judge Mary Hurley, who presided over the arraignments Monday.

Hurley has impounded the case files of all four defendants, according to the Eastern Hampshire District Court Clerk’s office.

Officials at UMass said Friday that the school is reviewing its security procedures at residence halls. Three of the four defendants reportedly gained access to the victim’s dorm after being signed in by a student who did not know them. The forth defendant passed security without signing in. None of the four is a UMass student.

University spokesman Edward Blaguszewski said UMass Police Chief John Horvath in the coming weeks will issue recommendations on how to improve dorm security to Chancellor Kumble Subbasway. In the meantime, UMass police are speaking with student monitors to ensure that sign-in protocol is followed, he said. Students are required to swipe their identification card while guests are required to show photo identification and be signed in by their hosts, he said.

“This is such a difficult and painful event, we need to take the opportunity to reinforce that part,” he said.

Students will also be required to attend to mandatory hall meetings to discuss residential hall safety, he said.

In court, Suhl said the four suspects, the alleged victim and two of her female friends all drank vodka while hanging around her dorm room Oct. 12.

When the other two women left, one of the suspects turned off the light in the room and the group allegedly attacked the victim, stripped her clothes off, each raping her multiple times, according to Suhl.

According to Jacoub, the alleged victim asked the men for $500 in order to ensure her silence. Suhl said in court Monday that the request for money was a ruse by the victim to convince the suspects she would remain quiet while she reported the attack to authorities.

UMass Police Chief John Horvath said during a press conference Monday that the investigation into the allegations began immediately after they were reported to police around 11:30 p.m. Oct. 14. All four teens were arrested in Pittsfield on Oct. 19, according to information presented in court.

A hearing seeking to reduce the bail for Bile is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 30.

All four men are due back in Eastern Hampshire District Court for a pre-trial hearing Dec. 10.

If any of the teens should post bail, they will need to remain in Massachusetts, surrender their passports, stay away from the alleged victim and any potential witnesses, stay out of the towns of Amherst, New Marlborough and Great Barrington, submit to GPS monitoring, observe a curfew, report to probation at least twice a week and avoid drugs and alcohol and submit to random screenings.

Staff writer Ben Storrow contributed to this report.

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