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Jamaica man convicted of raping Columbia student

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A Jamaica homeless man with a long criminal history was found guilty Tuesday of raping and trying to murder a Columbia journalism student in her own apartment last year.

After nearly 5 1/2 hours, a jury in Manhattan Supreme Court convicted Robert Williams, 31, of 44 criminal counts, including kidnapping, predatory sexual assault and attempted murder, the Manhattan DA said. Williams broke into the Hamilton Heights apartment of the unidentified 24-year-old student on April 13, 2007, tied her up, raped and tortured her for a 19-hour period and left her for dead as he set fire to the residence, according to prosecutors.

The woman used the flames to burn the ropes and escaped to safety.

Williams, who failed to show during several days of the trial, was asleep as the jury read his verdict, the New York Post reported. His victim, who gave the jury a graphic description of what happened to her, silently left the courtroom when the verdict was read, according to the Post.

He faces up to life in prison, the DA said.

Williams has been in and out of jail since he was a juvenile, the Post reported. He was released from prison shortly before he assaulted the student.

Police in Queens arrested the ex-convict, whose last known address was in Jamaica, April 19 after he allegedly robbed a Hollis home. Officers recognized Williams as the suspect wanted in the Columbia attack and indicted him for that crime.

He is also awaiting trial on burglary charges in Queens Criminal Court.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 6:40 pm, October 10, 2011
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