Columbia Student Testifies in Rape Case As Suspect Refuses to Attend

Barbara Ross and Corky Siemaszko, New York Daily News, June 6, 2008

In a quiet but steady voice, a former Columbia journalism student described Friday how a stranger invaded her Manhattan apartment and raped her repeatedly.

“Please don’t hurt me! Please don’t hurt me,” the young woman said she begged the man.

He threw her on the bed and tore off her clothes.

“He started raping me,” the woman said. “I thought he was going to kill me. I thought I was going to die.”

As she told her horrific tale, her frightened brown eyes darted over to the defense table where 31-year-old Robert Williams should have been sitting.

{snip}

Dressed in a beige dress, she traced the outlines of her life before Assistant District Attorney Ann Prunty led her up to April 13, 2007—the day her world was shattered forever.

Then 23, she said no alarm bells went off when she spotted the stranger in the elevator. She noticed he had a suitcase with rollers. But it was only after she got off—and heard the squeaking of the rollers—that she got nervous.

{snip}

When Prunty asked her if she tried to fight back, the young woman said she did “in the beginning.”

“I wanted to survive,” she said. “So I did what he told me to.”

The victim testified for only an hour and will return to the stand on Monday.

{snip}

columbia

Robert Williams.

[Editor’s Note: AR News ran stories when this woman was rescued and when Williams was arrested, which can be read here and here.]


The ex-con accused of raping and torturing a Columbia journalism student chickened out Friday and refused to show up for his trial.

Robert Williams’ decision spared the scarred young woman from having to confront the man who allegedly held her captive for 19 hours, tried to blind her with bleach—and carved up her face with a butcher knife.

{snip}

Berkman [Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Carol Berkman] ordered the trial to continue and the victim, who was 23 when she was attacked on April 13, 2007, will take the stand this afternoon.

Her testimony comes a day after Prunty [Assistant District Attorney Ann Prunty] charged that Williams turned the victim’s Hamilton Heights apartment into a “torture chamber.”

In an account that shocked listeners and forced a veteran sketch artist to flee in tears, Prunty told the court that Williams showed the victim no mercy and “proceeded to violate her in every way imaginable, and in some ways unimaginable.”

Williams, 31, gave no indication he was even listening as he sat beside Levine [Arnold Levine, counsel for the defense]—shackled to his seat. He is charged with 71 criminal counts, including attempted murder, arson, rape and sodomy. He faces life in prison.

The ordeal left the victim with a scarred face, severe burns, and liver damage from the over-the-counter pills she was forced to swallow by the fistfull.

Prunty said the woman was burned with bleach and later ordered to stab out her own eyes with scissors. When she couldn’t do it, her attacker scalded her with boiling water, the prosecutor said.

{snip}

There were more horrors. She was forced to shear off her own hair—then her face was mutilated.

“He chose a butcher knife and slowly began to slice into her face and eyelids, carving and disfiguring her face,” Prunty said.

{snip}

Before fleeing, the sadist tied her to a futon frame and set it on fire. But she used the flames to melt the computer cable cords binding her hands and feet—and escaped.

{snip}

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