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2 charged in sex assault at Paul Simon Job Corps outing to MLK skate center

The Martin Luther King Jr. Skating and Bowling Center at 1219 W. 76th St. | Google

The Martin Luther King Jr. Skating and Bowling Center at 1219 W. 76th St. | Google

Two men have been charged with sexually assaulting a 20-year-old woman last weekend while taking part in a group outing in Gresham with the Paul Simon Chicago Job Corps Center.

Damontae Gray, 23, and 19-year-old Nicholas Benson are each charged with a felony count of criminal sexual assault in connection with the alleged incidents.

Both were denied bail at their initial hearing Tuesday at the Leighton Criminal Court Building by Judge Stephanie K. Miller.

Gray and Benson are both members of the Paul Simon Chicago Job Corps and were part of a group who went to the Martin Luther King Jr. Skating and Bowling Center at 1219 W. 76th St. for an outing organized by the center on Saturday, Cook County prosecutors said in court.

The Job Corps provides no-cost education and technical programs for 16-24 year olds and is administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, according to its website. A spokesperson for the center was not available Tuesday and voicemail messages left with the center and the Job Corps Chicago regional office were not immediately returned.

Prosecutors said a bottle of liquor was brought to the outing and was shared by Gray, Benson, the 20-year-old woman and others in the parking lot of the skating rink.

After the woman became intoxicated, Gray led her to a different area of the lot and sexually assaulted her, prosecutors said. A witness approached Gray and the woman during that time, saw what was happening and tried to intervene, but was allegedly threatened by Gray.

Gray punched the witness and threatened to kill them if they said anything, prosecutors said.

Nicholas Benson (left) and Damontae Gray | Chicago police

Later during the outing, the group put the 20-year-old woman in the back of a van that took them to the event, prosecutors said. Benson allegedly went into the van and sexually assaulted the woman while she was left alone. She was eventually able to push him away and got out of the van.

When the group returned to the jobs center, the woman told several people what happened and was taken to a hospital, where a sexual assault kit was completed. At least two people reported the woman was “highly intoxicated” during the outing.

Video surveillance recorded Gray leading the woman to another area of the parking lot and Benson getting into the van while she was inside and left alone, prosecutors added.

Gray and Benson were taken into custody by Chicago police shortly before 2 a.m. the following morning in the same block as the jobs center, police spokeswoman Michelle Tannehill said. Both men also live in the same block as the center’s campus in Little Village.

A public defender for Gray and Benson said both were working and could afford to post $500 bond.

Their next court date was set for Feb. 4.