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What you need to know for 07/23/2017

'I am not your victim. I'm a survivor'

'I am not your victim. I'm a survivor'

Convicted rapist sentenced to 51.3 years to life
'I am not your victim. I'm a survivor'
Wilfredo Diaz receives his sentence Thursday for raping a woman last year.
Photographer: Steven Cook

The resolute woman spoke from the stand, staring directly at her attacker — Wilfredo Diaz

"I am not your victim," she told Diaz, who raped her on Aug. 16 on a roadside in Saratoga Springs. "I'm a survivor. Don't think for one single second that you destroyed my life, even though you violated me in the worst possible way a person can be violated.

"You didn't win here," she continued. "I did."

The woman asked Saratoga County Judge James Murphy to give the maximum possible sentence to Diaz.

Murphy did, sentencing Diaz to a total of 50 years to life for his convictions in the attack.

The judge also tacked on an extra 16 months for failing to register as a sex offender, for a total sentence of 51.3 years to life.

Police arrested Diaz, 44, of Whitehall, on Aug. 16 after a passer-by saw the assault alongside Nelson Avenue and called police.

A Saratoga County jury convicted Diaz after about two days of testimony, finding him guilty of two counts of predatory sexual assault and other charges.

The trial heard from more than 20 witnesses, including the good Samaritan who saw the struggle in the dark near Saratoga Race Course and called 911. The woman Diaz attacked testified as well.

Police determined that Diaz and the woman were acquaintances and were together in Diaz's truck prior to the attack.

The victim testified to multiple sexual assaults by Diaz, which did not end until police arrived, intervened and arrested him.

Prosecutor Michele Schettino described a man with a long history of disobeying authority, including a 2002 rape conviction and two other felony convictions since.

She also described Diaz's "barbaric attack" on the woman, a 15-minute-long brutal assault.

Schettino also asked for the maximum possible term.

"We ask for this sentence because the defendant's actions and his history have earned him this sentence," Schettino said. "This is a sentence that he deserves and, perhaps more so, this is a sentence that this victim and all other victims deserve so that they can be free from worry of Wilfredo Diaz out and about in the community."

Diaz' attorney, Andrew Blumenberg, indicated an appeal is expected. He also asked for the minimum possible term, 10 years to life. He tried comparing the possible maximum term with the lesser term an Albany County killer received. 

The judge later noted that similar predatory sexual assault cases have resulted in similar or longer terms.

Diaz gave his own brief statement in court. His exact words were difficult to understand. He appeared to show no remorse then or at any other point in the proceedings. 

In pronouncing sentence, Murphy first addressed the woman directly.

"There was no question that the jury heard what you were saying, believed what you were saying," the judge said.

"I think you said it best that you are not a victim, you are a survivor," Murphy said, commending her for her bravery.

Murphy then turned to Diaz, recounting his actions that night, chasing down the woman, grabbing her and raping her. The judge praised the good Samaritan and the police. Had they not come, Murphy said, the woman may very well be dead.

"I see no remorse whatsoever," Murphy said before imposing sentence.

The victim watched the proceedings from the gallery, surrounded by loved ones. She thanked prosecutors afterward.

On the stand, in a calm and direct tone, she told Diaz, "As hard as it was for me to relive that night, I was determined to see you pay." 

"I am and I always will be a strong woman," she added a short time later. "I will always fight back."

She will continue to pursue her dreams, while Diaz will be in a cell fading away, she said.

"I suggest, as you sit in your cell, you start praying and you pray as hard as you can -- if you're even capable of sincerity or prayer -- for God's forgiveness, as you will be wasting your time praying for mine."

"It is God's forgiveness that you truly need," she said, "as I believe there is a special place in hell for people like you."

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