Friday, November 11, 2005

Montgomery County State’s Attorney Douglas F. Gansler expects to prosecute the man dubbed the Silver Spring Rapist now that an unrelated rape trial in New York City has ended with a conviction.

“It is certainly a case we would be interested in prosecuting, but it is up to New York,” whether the suspect will be returned to Maryland for trial, Mr. Gansler said yesterday.

Clarence Williams, 58, was convicted Wednesday on one count each of robbery and rape stemming from a 1973 attack in New York City. He faces a maximum of 50 years in prison at his scheduled Nov. 28 sentencing.

Williams originally was prosecuted for the New York rape in 1974, but the trial ended in a hung jury. DNA evidence was not used at that time. He escaped another New York City rape conviction on a legal technicality and jumped bail in 1978 before retrials in either case.

Williams was arrested in April in DeKalb County, Ga., when the decades-old arrest warrants surfaced during a background check after he tried to buy a shotgun. Williams, who had been living in Clarkston, Ga., was extradited to New York.

In the years since the first trial, New York investigators had extracted DNA from evidence recovered during the 1973 rape investigation. The DNA matched Williams, and jurors this week needed just two hours to reach a unanimous decision to convict him.

New York police also entered Williams’ DNA into a national database and got a hit on a series of rapes, attempted rapes and sexual assaults in Silver Spring, Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Kensington from 1987 to 1991 attributed to a man known only as the Silver Spring Rapist. Nine of the cases have been conclusively linked, but police think the same man was responsible for as many as 21 attacks.

Police then learned that Williams had lived in Silver Spring and the District when the rapes in Montgomery County occurred. They also linked him to two unsolved rapes in New Jersey.

Mr. Gansler said that the decision whether to prosecute Williams in Maryland would be based on the strength of the evidence, the willingness of the victims to testify, and the sentence Williams receives in New York.

Mr. Gansler said the evidence is solid but that because of Williams’ age, he already could be facing life in prison in New York. Mr. Gansler has filed a detainer, similar to the process that was used to bring snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo to Montgomery County after their convictions in Virginia. A detainer also has been filed by prosecutors in New Jersey.

Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau acknowledged Wednesday that charges were pending against Williams in the two jurisdictions, but he did not say which one would go first.

No matter the outcome of possible prosecutions in Montgomery County and New Jersey, Williams will have to be returned to New York to serve his sentence.

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