‘La Manada’ member admits to gang rape for first time and apologizes to victim

The lawyer of the young woman, however, believes José Ángel Prenda wrote the apology in a bid to reduce his 15-year sentence for the sexual assault at the 2016 Sanfermines fiestas

‘La Manada’ member José Ángel Prenda outside court in 2018.
‘La Manada’ member José Ángel Prenda outside court in 2018.Paco Puentes

José Ángel Prenda, one of the five men convicted in a sexual assault case that became known as “La Manada” (or, the Wolf Pack), has admitted the gang rape of the young victim in 2016 in a letter. The incident took place at the world-famous Sanfermines fiestas, also known as the Running of the Bulls, and eventually saw Prenda and his friends, Alfonso Jesús Cabezuelo, Ángel Boza, Antonio Manuel Guerrero and Jesús Escudero, given 15-year jail terms.

The confession was first reported on by the online newspaper El Periódico de Cataluña, and the veracity of the letter has been confirmed to EL PAÍS by Prenda’s lawyer, Agustín Martínez. In it, the convicted rapist admits for the first time to the facts for which he was jailed and also asks for forgiveness from his victim, a young woman from Madrid. So far he is the only member of La Manada to have admitted the sexual assault that was committed that night in the city of Pamplona.

The case became known as La Manada, or The Wolf Pack, after the name of the WhatsApp group used by the defendants and other friends of theirs to chat. All five, who were between 25 and 27 at the time, are from Seville. One of the five was a member of the Civil Guard at the time and another a member of the armed forces. The attack, which began when the gang maneuvered the victim by force into a small building lobby, was filmed by the defendants, who also stole the woman’s cellphone. Afterwards, the victim was found crying on a bench by a couple, who urged her to go to the police.

The letter from Prenda was written by hand from the Puerto III jail in Cádiz, and is dated July 22. It was sent to a court in Navarre, which is the region where the incident took place and where the subsequent trial was held. “Via this letter and in a personal capacity [...] I wish to express my complete remorse for the crime for which I am serving this sentence and my personal request to apologize to the victim for the damage caused, for which I am deeply sorry, and also to her direct relatives,” reads the letter, to which El Periódico de Cataluña has had access.

The first thing that I thought of is that he has a huge amount of nerve
Victim's lawyer Teresa Hermida

Prenda also requests that the letter be registered on his prison file and that he be sent a copy of it. Speaking to EL PAÍS by phone, Prenda’s lawyer – who distanced himself from the letter – said that he believed his client had written it in a bid to reduce his sentence and also be granted less strict prison conditions.

The victim of La Manada received the news with skepticism, according to her lawyer, Teresa Hermida, who also spoke to EL PAÍS. Her attorney believes that the letter is a “maneuver” on the part of Prenda. “The only thing the victim has considered from this testimony is that finally, he has admitted the crime,” she explained via a phone conversation. The lawyer added that “the apology he is offering is fictitious,” and that the letter is “a maneuver to secure prison privileges.”

The lawyer called for caution when considering the missive. “The prison board and the warden, as well as the judge in charge of penitentiary monitoring, should consider whether this is a serious apology, but it is not credible,” Hermida added. “The first thing that I thought of is that he has a huge amount of nerve.”

The attorney also explained that the letter does not serve the purpose of making amends for the damage to the victim. “I spoke to her when we were notified,” she added. “She is still assimilating it.”

Hermida added that this is not the first letter that Prenda has sent, and that the previous one, written from prison in 2018 to the victim, stated just the opposite: that she should admit she invented the whole story. “Maybe one day you will tell the truth,” he wrote.

In June 2019, the Supreme Court raised the nine-year jail term handed down to the members of La Manada by a Navarre court to 15 years on the basis that the offense committed was not sexual abuse but rather a gang rape.

A protest against the original nine-year prison sentence for members of “La Manada.”
A protest against the original nine-year prison sentence for members of “La Manada.”Paco Puentes

The Supreme Court ruled that the victim was subject to an “intimidating situation” and that this saw her “adopt an attitude of submission, doing what the perpetrators told her to given the distress and intense oppression caused by the situation given the secluded, constricted and exit-free place where she had been taken by force.”

The judges found that the accused had “taken advantage” of these circumstances to attack the young woman, who suffered at least “10 sexual assaults with oral, vaginal and anal penetrations.”

The Supreme Court’s decision was in line with the 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. 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.

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