By Chris Engelhardt
A Brooklyn man was charged Thursday with robbing a 73-year-old blind man twice in two weeks at his home in the Queensbridge Houses, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
Construction worker Ronald Rhodes, 46, of Brooklyn, was arraigned Thursday by Queens Criminal Court Judge Donna Golia on two criminal complaints and charged with first- and second-degree burglary, second- and third-degree robbery, criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation and fourth-degree criminal mischief. Rhodes, who faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted, is being held on $175,000 cash bail over $300,000 bond. He is scheduled to return to court Aug. 5.
Brown said that, according to the first complaint, the victim, William Brandon, was inside his apartment near 41st Avenue and 21st Street in Long Island City on the morning of June 29 when Rhodes approached him from behind and ripped the chain from around his neck before fleeing.
According to the second complaint, Brown said, Brandon exited his apartment house elevator at 1 p.m. July 9 and was opening the door to his apartment when Rhodes placed his hands over his mouth and pushed him into the apartment. Rhodes allegedly placed his hands around Brandon’s neck and applied pressure, causing him to lose consciousness. In addition, as Rhodes allegedly choked Brandon, he told him to “Give me the keys.” When Brandon regained consciousness, he said he noticed his keys, cell phone and cash missing from his pocket and the lock to his closet had been broken.
Brandon was taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital and was listed in stable condition, police said.
Queensbridge Houses video surveillance of June 29 allegedly shows Rhodes walking into the building and through the building’s lobby behind Brandon. Brown also said that video surveillance of July 9 allegedly shows Rhodes walking in the same direction as Brandon and following him into the building and through the lobby. Surveillance footage from inside the elevator that day shows Brandon exiting at his floor and Rhodes standing outside the elevator as the doors opened.
In statements made to police officers following his arrest, Rhodes allegedly admitted to following Brandon into the building, entering Brandon’s apartment behind him and removing the chain from around his neck on June 29. Rhodes also stated he sold Brandon’s chain in Brooklyn for $50 cash and five bags of heroin, reported the DA.
For the July 9 incident, Rhodes allegedly admitted to following Brandon into his building, waiting for him to exit the elevator on his floor and placing his hand over Brandon’s mouth and pushing him into his apartment. Rhodes also admitted to taking cash and a cell phone from Brandon’s pockets, as well as breaking the lock on the closet, the DA said.
“The victim in this case was a 73-year-old blind man whom the defendant allegedly preyed upon because of his disability – believing that identification would prove difficult,” Brown said in a statement. “However, there were electronic eyes throughout the public housing development where the victim lived which are alleged to have recorded the defendant’s movements. He now faces the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence.”
Detectives assigned to the New York City Police Department’s Queens Robbery Squad conducted the investigation.
Attorney Pamela Jordan, who is representing Rhodes, was not immediately available for comment.
Reach reporter Chris Engelhardt by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.