Columbia torture jurors watch surveillance

June 11, 2008 6:41:17 PM PDT
Jurors in the trial of an ex-convict accused of the 19-hour rape and torture of a Columbia University graduate student have viewed a videodisc of what prosecutors say is the sadist trying to use the victim's ATM card.The 3-minute surveillance video was shown Tuesday to jurors hearing the trial of Robert Williams, who is charged in the nightmarish attack on the 24-year-old woman.

Prosecutors say the video shows Williams at an automated teller machine in the victim's Manhattan neighborhood on April 14, 2007, around 11 a.m., about 13.5 hours after he forced his way into her apartment. In the video, the man, apparently frustrated and angry, gives up and leaves the ATM.

The woman testified earlier this week that she gave the 31-year-old Williams the correct personal identification numbers for two ATM cards because she was afraid not to.

She said that each time Williams returned, he was empty-handed and would do something violent to vent his frustration. She said she practically begged him to write down the PIN numbers since he seemed to forget them quickly.

The woman said that when Williams asked about ATMs, she told him she knew of two in her neighborhood, Hamilton Heights. The video shows a man entering a small general store. It does not show the street the store is on.

The man is wearing a jacket with dark sleeves and hood and a light-colored chest section. Protruding from his rear is a hump that appears to be a knapsack hidden under the jacket.

While standing in the rear of the store in front of the ATM, the man sorts through cards, tries to use them, fails and leaves.

While prosecutors say the man is Williams, his defense lawyer Arnold Levine says it is impossible to identify the person. The surveillance camera is overhead, the man is wearing a hood and his face is never seen clearly.

Williams, who has served eight years in prison for attempted murder, is charged with kidnapping, rape, arson, burglary and sexual assault in the attack on the woman. He has pleaded not guilty and faces life in prison if convicted.

Assistant District Attorney Ann Prunty told jurors in her opening statement last week that Williams violated the graduate journalism student "in every way imaginable, and in some ways unimaginable."

Prunty said Williams stopped the torture only after the victim - who tried to kill herself to end her suffering - blacked out from hours of pain caused by knife wounds, boiling water, battering and sexual assaults.