Today’s news:

Cabbie gets 5 1/2 years in Astoria rape case

A 46-year-old Elmhurst taxi driver hailed as a hero after dropping off a baby at a Queens firehouse has been sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison for attempting to rape a 23-year-old woman in Astoria on March 2, the Queens district attorney said.

Klever Sailema, of 79-11 41st Ave. in Elmhurst, was sentenced Sept. 9 by acting Queens Supreme Court Justice Joseph Grosso, who gave the defendant 5 1/2 years in prison as well as seven years of post-release supervision, Queens DA Richard Brown said.

“The defendant is a danger to society and I hope that today’s sentence brings comfort to his victim in knowing that a dangerous predator has been removed from the streets and will no longer be a threat to her safety or to that of other women,” Brown said.

Sailema, who had been held on $50,000 bail since his arrest in March, pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree rape in July, the DA said. The defendant must now register with the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, which will place his name in the state’s Sex Offender Registry database, Brown said.

On March 2, Sailema picked up the victim around 1 a.m. near 28th Avenue and 37th Street in Astoria and was told to drive her to Maspeth. The woman fell asleep in the back seat of the defendant’s cab and awoke to find that her pants and underwear had been pulled down, he said.

She began screaming and punching the defendant, who was on top of her, as well as biting him on the arm, the DA said. The victim grabbed Sailema’s hack registration and a photo of him and fled the cab, Brown said.

She was taken to a Queens hospital where she was treated for injuries sustained during the attack, the DA said.

Sailema had originally been hailed as a hero in February 2008 after he dropped off a 6-month-old baby at a Corona firehouse, telling authorities that the child had been left in his cab by a man who jumped out and fled. But it was later revealed Sailema was part of a scheme by the baby’s 27-year-old father to abandon the infant.

Sailema was dating the sister of the baby’s mother at the time. He initially faced charges of criminal facilitation, but a judge dismissed the charges on the condition he not get into trouble for six months.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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