Schenectady County

Niskayuna rapist receives 20-year sentence

Abel Melendez was sentenced in Schenectady County Court on Wednesday to 20 years in prison on his co

A prosecutor told a judge Wednesday there were few things more frightening than what Abel Melendez did.

Melendez was in Schenectady County Court on Wednesday for sentencing on his conviction for first-degree rape. Prosecutor Christina Tremante-Pelham of the Schenectady County district attorney’s staff told visiting Judge Felix Catena that Melendez pulled a stranger off Balltown Road in Niskayuna and raped her.

“The defendant was a stranger in the dark,” Tremante-Pelham said as she argued for the maximum prison time allowed — 25 years. “He was following this young woman on his bike. He forcibly raped her, held her down, held her neck as she lay there crying, trying to fight him off.”

Catena, saying the case was serious and the verdict appropriate, ultimately sentenced Melendez, 23, to 20 years in prison.

“This was someone you picked up off the street, a random act,” Catena told Melendez. “It’s a serious matter, and this sentence will reflect that.”

Melendez’ total time in prison, though, is expected to be extended by at least three years. He pleaded guilty later Wednesday morning to attempted burglary in an unrelated case. Tremante-Pelham also indicated that DNA testing results had been received that may connect Melendez to another burglary case for which he has not been charged.

A county court jury returned the guilty verdict in the rape case in March after about four hours of deliberations.

Melendez, who then lived on Dean Street in Schenectady, followed the woman and forced her up a hill off Balltown Road and raped her around 2:30 a.m. on Oct. 16, 2010.

At trial, Tremante-Pelham outlined a mountain of evidence against Melendez. She cited a videotaped confession, DNA evidence, phone records of calls on the victim’s cellphone, which was stolen during the assault, and the victim’s testimony.

The woman was walking home from a downtown Schenectady bar when Melendez rode up to her on a bike. She eventually ran from him until she couldn’t run anymore, and that’s when Melendez, who kept up with her on his bike, raped her on a picnic table between the CBS 6 building and a law office.

Melendez, through his attorney Mark Juda, contended he had consensual sex with the woman. Juda also argued there should have been evidence of a struggle if a rape had occurred but there was none.

Melendez was arrested in February 2011 and indicted on counts of first-degree rape and third-degree robbery. The jury acquitted him on the third-degree robbery count, but convicted him of a misdemeanor count of petty larceny. The stolen cellphone was the basis for the robbery count.

The victim was not present for Wednesday’s proceedings. Her mother, though, was there, Tremante-Pelham said later. No victim impact statement was given.

Tremante-Pelham noted that the victim is recovering from the traumatic ordeal. “She has a lot of support,” the prosecutor said.

On Melendez’ side, several family members were in the gallery, including his father, Juda said.

In the burglary cases, Melendez was charged in February 2011 with attempting to break into a woman’s apartment in the Central State Street neighborhood on Oct. 28, 2010. The resident awoke in the middle of the night to noises outside the apartment. The intruder, however, left without making contact.

Fingerprints left on an opened window led to Melendez, prosecutors said.

In a second burglary case, Melendez was charged in a break-in at the JC Little League building on Michigan Avenue on Aug. 4, 2010. In that case, fingerprints also led police to Melendez, officials said.

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