MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — A man convicted of brutally slashing a young woman's face and hand while she waited for the subway was sentenced to a 21 years in prison on Friday.
This is the second time Edwin Santiago, 40, has been sentenced for the violent knife attack. In 2004, a jury convicted Santiago, a drifter, with the first-degree assault for slicing Yael Leopold's face and hand as the 22-year-old waited for the J train in the Chambers Street stop after a night out with friends on January 20th, 2003.
But Santiago, whose conviction was based largely on the testimony of three eyewitnesses (one of whom was the victim), won a new trial on appeal because, as the appellate judges ruled, the trial court didn't allow an expert witness to testify about the problems with eyewitness identification.
This time around at trial, an eyewitness expert did testify, but Santiago met with the same result. After deliberating for less than 4 hours, a jury convicted him on the same charge.
At the sentencing today, Leopold told the court her "life was turned upside down" by the random attack. Leopold, then a University of Massachusetts senior visiting the city, was waiting on the platform at around 5:30 a.m. when Santiago, whom she'd noticed acting erratically, came at her with a blade.
He slashed her face, and nearly severed her thumb. She needed more than 50 stitches and reconstructive surgery because of her injuries.
Leopold said she was "paralyzed" when she heard that Santiago would have the chance at another trial — but she has tried to "move on" with her life.
Asking for the maximum sentence of 25 years, Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos said the crime was without reason and motive, and was the "pure picture of violence."
Santiago, who has maintained his innocence, told the judge that he feels sorry for what happened to Leopold, but he "didn't do it" and that he "wasn't there."
"I've never seen that lady in my life," Santiago said, breaking into tears. "I swear to you."
Before sentencing Santiago, Judge Mary Kahn called the crime "inexplicable," and said the "horror" Leopold must have felt "is something the rest of us could only imagine." But said she was pleased that Santiago had expressed sympathy for Leopold, even as he continues to say he's innocent.
Santiago was given 21 years in jail, along with five years' probation. The time he's already served — he's been in jail since his 2003 arrest — will count towards his prison sentence.
As he was taken out in handcuffs, Santiago once again tried to plea his case. "You got the wrong guy," he said. "I've never seen that lady in my life."