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Suspect charged with sex offenses, second man still sought

Cases of street rape are sometimes difficult for the authorities to prove due to the well-known issues of witness misidentification that may arise in some circumstances. With respect to the recent grisly story of a New York woman being raped by two successive attackers in Brooklyn on Aug. 31, one of the rapists has allegedly been identified and arrested for sex offenses. Authorities arrested the 17-year-old male on charges of sexual assault, robbery, and weapons offenses.

The incident is emotionally-charged due to the horrific attack on the victim, who endured two separate rapes a few minutes apart by attackers who appear to have been working together. They allegedly told her in advance what they were going to do, saying it in similar terminology. The attacks took place at 5 a.m. in Clinton Hill as the 31-year-old female was walking home from a local night spot.

The first rapist robbed the woman before taking off. About a half-block away, as she tried to make her way to a place of safety, she was accosted by the second individual. The male arrested was allegedly the first attacker. He has a long rap sheet but with apparently no prior sex offenses.

A patrol officer saw the suspect and matched him with a police-issued description. The victim then reportedly identified him in a lineup. Defense counsel will thoroughly investigate the identification procedures involved here. The police-issued description may have been general enough to fit many other similarly-placed individuals. The patrol officer's identification must therefore be scrutinized in detail for inconsistencies and for a preconditioned response.

In New York and elsewhere, the hazards of lineup identifications are well-documented. Counsel must determine whether there was any suggestiveness that may have affected the victim's identification. An arrest for sex offenses is sometimes inadvertently made because a person with a long rap sheet appears to be a likely suspect. However, in our system a conviction can only be obtained on solid, credible evidence that together proves guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Source: New York Post, "2 sexual assaults on woman minutes apart might have been planned", Jamie Schram, Sept. 20, 2014

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