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Trial of alleged Schenectady rapist in jury's hands

Friday, February 14, 2014
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— A Schenectady man forced a woman into an alley off Brandywine Avenue and sexually assaulted her at knifepoint last year, prosecutor Jessica Lorusso told a Schenectady County Court jury Thursday morning.

Lorusso highlighted street surveillance video, which captured events leading up to the attack, and showed jurors images from the video during her closing arguments in the trial of 47-year-old Andre Ward. She used the still images to show the jury what happened immediately before the attack and to cast doubt on Ward’s account to police that it was the woman’s idea to go into the alley.

“I don’t know, ladies and gentlemen, but it sure doesn’t look like it was her idea to go there,” Lorusso told the jury, “but that’s for you to determine.”

Ward, formerly of Glenwood Boulevard, has been on trial for the past two weeks on charges of predatory sexual assault, first-degree criminal sex act and second-degree strangulation. If convicted of the predatory sexual assault count, he faces as much as 25 years to life in prison.

Ward’s attorney, William Nowak, highlighted what he said were inconsistencies in the woman’s testimony in front of a grand jury and at trial. He also argued medical evidence doesn’t fit her account of what happened.

“Those holes are big, they’re very big,” he told the jury.

The jury deliberated for the afternoon, asking only for the elements of the crimes to be read back to them. The jury is to resume deliberations this morning.

Ward is accused of forcing the woman into an alley off Brandywine Avenue on May 5, 2013, and threatening her with a knife. Once there, he allegedly forced her to perform a sex act on him and choked her.

A concerned citizen first summoned police to the scene. The caller reported seeing a man forcing a woman into the alley just before 7 a.m. and also heard crying. Police arrived to find both Ward and the woman.

The suspect and victim had only met earlier that morning and shared a cab to Brandywine Avenue, Lorusso said.

The video stills from a nearby street surveillance camera show the woman walking away from a man, holding up an obscene gesture toward him. The man, identified by police as Ward, then closes in on her. In one still, he is shown behind her, grabbing her. Another shows him behind her, walking her into the alley.

Lorusso also referenced comments captured on police officer microphones at the scene that showed the victim was terrified of Ward. Ward is heard giving officers at the scene one version of events, but no explanation for why the woman was so afraid of him.

Later, in video recorded during his interview with police, Ward changed his account, Lorusso said.

Any changes to the woman’s story were inconsequential, Lorusso said, as the core of her account remained the same. The same can’t be said for Ward’s multiple accounts, she added.

 
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