LAWRENCEVILLE -- Prosecutors call it a secret so big and hurtful it eventually bubbled to the surface. The defense contends it's an outright lie concocted by two unruly, adolescent girls.
What happened in the predawn hours of some morning in late 2006, or the initial days of 2007, is being left to the recollections of teens in the rape trial of Dacula resident Brandon Pate, 18.
There will be no scientific evidence. The alleged rape was reported much too late for that.
The reason, in the estimation of Assistant District Attorney John Warr, is that the alleged victim, then 13 and in the eighth grade, couldn't bring herself to tell anybody. Pate's defense has argued he's being used as a scapegoat for the girl's past misbehavior.
The accusations have cost Pate, formerly a Mill Creek High School student, more than a year in jail, and potentially much longer in prison.
Pate is accused of forcing the girl into sex at her Dacula home, and threatening to slit her father's throat with a knife he carried if she didn't comply.
This much is uncontested: The alleged victim was grounded at the time, and Pate and another teen identified as "Lou" drove a friend of hers to the house sometime after midnight. The teens snuck in a window. Her father slept down the hall in his room. All the teens were testing "the bounds of authority," as Warr put it in opening statements Tuesday.
The alleged victim told police about two years later -- Dec. 15, 2008 -- that Pate had raped her while her friend was in the room. A Gwinnett police officer who filed the initial report testified Tuesday the alleged victim told her the second boy was outside as the attack occurred.
In later testimony, the alleged victim's friend, now 16, said all four were in the room at the time. She testified she was on the opposite side of the room and looked away during the attack.
"I wanted to get her dad, but I was 13 at the time," she testified. "I just wanted to pretend it didn't happen."
Warr said blame from classmates has since forced the alleged victim to move out of state with her mother.
Defense attorney Mark Issa, in his opening statements, urged jurors to question the context in which the allegations emerged. The time line is also suspect, he said.
"No one's going to give you an exact date of this monumental moment," Issa told jurors.
Issa questioned how the alleged victim's friend could watch the attack and then leave with the boy who raped her friend, as both sides concede she did.
Pate was indicted last year on charges of rape, statutory rape, child molestation, aggravated assault, burglary, possessing a knife during the commission of a felony, terroristic threats and cruelty to children.
In an earlier hearing, Pate's attorney argued the story was a cover-up for the girl's past promiscuity. The incident was reported after the alleged victim was caught selling marijuana at Mill Creek High, where she was attending, and her father had threatened to have her screened for drugs and sexual activity.
Pate remains at the Gwinnett County Jail, where he's been held without bond since January last year.