The Body Counters

updated 04/12/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/12/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

MIKE WEBER CAN SOUND CONTRITE. "This ain't something I'm proud of," he says. But even now, Weber, 17, has trouble figuring out what all the fuss is about. Relaxing bare-chested in the afternoon sunshine at a park in his Lakewood, Calif., hometown, he insists that he and his buddies in the now infamous Spur Posse, whose members made a game of toting up their sexual conquests, did nothing out of the ordinary—much less wrong. "It was not a big deal," he says. "If you had sex, you got a point. It was like bragging rights for the person who thought he was the biggest stud." Weber claims he himself racked up only a modest five points; other Posse members had far higher scores. "At our school, it's every young girl's dream to make it with a star football player or a highly popular guy," he says. "That's who we were—the big men on campus."

Unfortunately for Weber and his BMOC pals, their activities—including their sexual body count—recent!) attracted unwanted attention. On March 18 police arrested nine members of the Spur Posse on suspicion of raping or molesting at least seven girls, one of them as young as 10. Eight of the youths were later released after the district attorney concluded that the sexual activity in which they were involved was with girls who gave their consent. One 16-year-old has been formally accused of lewd conduct with the 10-year-old girl.

Investigations of four of the youths are still continuing. But no matter what the outcome, the scandal has touched off a furious controversy in Lakewood, a tidy middle-class bedroom community of 74,000 people 3½ miles southeast of Los Angeles. Parents of several Posse members, as well as many of their classmates at Lakewood High, take the position that boys will be boys, arguing that the youths have been persecuted for doing only what comes naturally and that the real villains are girls of loose morals who are now crying rape. Mean while, main adults in town arc both shocked by the rampant promiscuity and angered at the damage done to their town, which has become the object of media attention and derision in neighboring communities. "Whether what happened is legal or illegal, I think the question is-about what is right and wrong." says Lakewood's Mayor Marc Titel. "It's about values."

The existence of the Spur Posse was no secret, at least at Lakewood High. Formed four years ago by Dana Belman, 20, a former Lakewood fool-ball star, the group took its name from the National Basketball Association's San Antonio Spurs, one of their favorite teams. Numbering about 20 to 30 core members, many of them popular football players, they quickly earned a reputation as swaggering hell-raisers who often threw weekend keg parties.

Then, late last year, local authorities began to take a closer look at the Posse after several members were convicted of a series of burglaries, assaults and an auto theft. In February school authorities asked the parents of 20 youths involved in the group to a meeting to discuss their sons' activities. It was then, says Lt. Joseph Surgent of the L.A. County Sheriffs Juvenile Investigation Bureau, that one of the mothers stood up and declared that she had ordered her son to quit the group after he told her that one fellow member had committed a tape. The next day police launched an investigation. In all, seven girls told of having sex with Posse members; at least two said they had been intimidated into going along with the boys, and one said she had been forcibly raped.

As serious as the accusations were, the boys' notoriety only went national when it came to light that they had devised a scoring system to keep track of their conquests—and had run up some staggering totals. For each different girl they had sex with, they earned one point. The leader of the pack was Billy Shehan Jr., 19, who was not arrested but who boasted he had run up 66 points and routinely bought condoms by the "boxload" from a Price Club. Dana Belman claimed to be close behind at 63 points, though his brother Kris, 18, who was the only member arrested as an adult, declined to reveal his total. "When somebody would be with a girl," says Mike Weber, explaining a code the group devised to indicate their new totals, "he would say I'm [baseball player] Steve Sax [uniform No. 7] or I'm [football player] Barry Sanders [No. 20]." As the boys made clear, the girls they slept with represented little more than numbers. "It's got nothing to do with love," explains Posse member Matt Nielsen, 18, who was not arrested. "It's got nothing to do with liking them.

To the parents of some Posse members, it was all innocent fun. "Nothing my boy did was anything that any red-blooded American boy wouldn't do at his age," salesman Donald Belman, 46, angrily declared. At one point, Belman père even bragged to one reporter about what "virile specimens" his sons were. Billy Shehan's father, Billy Sr., was less defiant, but no more apologetic. "I'm 40. We used to talk about scoring in my high school," he said. "What's the difference?" All the same, his wife, Joyce, did acknowledge being deeply upset at the sight of her son bragging about his exploits. "It was like someone kicked me in the stomach when I saw his face talking on television."" she said. Yet a more typical response came from Dottie Belman, Dana and Kris's mother, who argued that the onus for the episode should fall on the accusers. "Those girls are trash," she told a reporter.

Many students at Lake wood High seemed inclined to take the same line, including some girls who had sex with Posse members. Michelle, now 16 and a former Lakewood student, says she willingly "hooked up" (had sex) several limes with one boy in the group when she was 14. Last year, she says, "he wanted me to hook up with live of his Spur Posse friends, and that's when I slapped him." Still, Michelle is appalled that any of the members should be facing criminal charges. "The girls agreed to it," she says. "They're pretty much sluts." Other students, while harboring no particular sympathy for the Posse, maintain that many girls actively pursued its members. "I see girls coming up to them and throwing their arms around them and following them around," says one 18-year-old senior girl. "I think it's because they want to be popular, so they want to hang around with the popular people." Indeed, when some of the accused boys returned to school last month they were greeted as heroes by many students.

That reaction bewilders authorities. "These girls were preyed upon for a point," says Lieutenant Surgent, one of the lead investigators in the case. "Not for a sexual act—for a point. And it wasn't just one-on-ones. It was two-on-ones. Three-on-ones. The girls were intimidated by it." Attorney Gloria Allied, who represents two of the girls who came forward, strongly agrees. "My 16-year-old client wants people to know she was a victim, not a slut," says Allred. "She wants justice. She doesn't want any girl to have to go through what she did."

As the furor raged on, some parents in Lakewood were left to wonder how it all could have happened in a conservative town like theirs. All the familiar factors were cited—everything from society's permissiveness to the prevalence of divorce and inadequate parental supervision. Mike Weber, for one, dismisses such theories. "No matter what whether sex is taught at home to be a light thing or a wrong thing," he says, "a teenager will do what he wants." Perhaps so, but as the Lakewood scandal surely demonstrates, parents have no choice but to keep trying. "These boys have just not been raised right," says Lake-wood resident Richard Fox, 68. "If these are all-American boys, I'd hate to think what Lakewood is going to turn into."

BILL HEWITT
LYNDON STAMBLER, JULIE KLEIN and DORIS BACON in Lakewood

From Our Partners