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What you need to know for 07/23/2017

Jury finds Schenectady man guilty of sexual assault

Jury finds Schenectady man guilty of sexual assault

A city man was convicted Friday of a knifepoint sexual assault.

A city man was convicted Friday of a knifepoint sexual assault.

The charge could put him in prison for the rest of his life.

Andre Ward, 47, was found by a Schenectady County Court jury to have forced a woman into an alley off Brandywine Avenue on May 5, 2013 and making her perform oral sex on him.

The case was marked by a key piece of surveillance camera footage, as well as police recordings of the suspect.

The case was also marked by a woman who heard screams and took action, prosecutor Jessica Lorusso said.

“The heroine in this case was the 911 caller,” Lorusso said after the verdict Friday. “She had the guts and the courage to call and follow up. So few people do that nowadays.”

Ward was found guilty of all the counts against him, including predatory sexual assault and first-degree criminal sex act.

The predatory sexual assault count carries a possible sentence of 25 years to life in state prison. He is to be sentenced in April.

Lorusso said Ward’s criminal history, which includes a rape conviction from California, means she will ask for the maximum.

Ward was represented by attorney William Nowak, who could not be reached for comment.

Lorusso said the caller may have saved the woman from further harm. Ward abruptly stopped the attack just before police arrived, possibly after seeing a police car. Officers found them as the two left the alley, the woman still under Ward’s control.

The terrified woman then ran toward officers.

Microphones on the arriving officers caught Ward’s first explanations and comments. Video of his later questioning by detectives showed Ward giving a different explanation. Jurors saw and heard both.

Ward tried to tell police that there was no force and that the woman initiated the sex act by summoning him into the alley.

The key piece of surveillance video refuted that account entirely. The video was taken from a nearby pole camera.

In her closing arguments Thursday, Lorusso showed stills from that video. The stills showed the woman walking away from Ward, 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.

The two had seen each other previously and shared a cab just prior to the attack.

The jury came back with its verdict just before 4 p.m. Friday. They deliberated most of the day and part of Thursday afternoon.

The jury asked for sections of the law to be read back, Lorusso said. They also asked for the 911 caller’s testimony to be read back in its entirety and the victim’s testimony about use of the knife.

The victim suffered a superficial wound to her leg in the attack. Use of the knife was a key element in the predatory sexual assault charge that includes the sentence of up to 25 years to life in prison.

Ward remains in custody.

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