By Ivan Pereira
It took a Queens Supreme Court jury 20 minutes Friday to convict a Rockaway man of two rapes, including a cold case from 13 years ago, the Queens district attorney said.
Richard Thomas, 43, of New Haven Avenue in the Rockaways, was found guilty of two counts of first-degree rape and other charges stemming from a sexual assault of a woman in 1996 and a 12-year-old girl in 2004, Queens DA Richard Brown said.
Thomas, already serving a prison sentence for a 2006 grand larceny, was convicted through DNA evidence that linked the two sexual assaults, according to Brown.
“This case underscores once again the crucial importance of DNA evidence, which is irrefutable proof of guilt or innocence,” he said in a statement. “Jurors returned a swift and decisive verdict and the defendant now faces a considerable amount of time in prison.”
The jury deliberated quickly following the four-day trial. Queens Supreme Court Justice Ronald Hollie scheduled sentencing for Nov. 17, when Thomas faces up to 75 years in prison, according to the DA.
In August 1996, Thomas approached a couple in a car in a southeast Queens intersection and, at gunpoint, ordered them out of the vehicle, Brown said. After robbing the male victim and locking him in the trunk of the car, the convict raped the woman and robbed and locked her inside with the man, according to Brown.
Nearly eight years later, Thomas raped and robbed a 12-year-old girl in Far Rockaway as she walked to the school bus, according to the DA.
The victim of the first attack had a hand in winning the conviction, Brown said. Three years ago she urged the state Legislature to expand New York’s DNA database to include convicts of all felonies.
After he was sentenced for his grand larceny conviction, Thomas was forced to submit a DNA sample, which linked him to both rapes, according to the DA.
“DNA evidence that was collected from the rape victims at the time of the incidents and stored in a database was able to convict this defendant, thanks in part to a law for which the adult victim lobbied in this case to have passed,” Brown said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.