MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — Nearly 14 years after raping and robbing a woman in her Orchard Street apartment, Lerio Guerrero was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years in prison for the crimes — thanks largely to DNA recovered from a cigarette.
Guerrero, 32, was arrested last year, after prosecutors were able to link DNA from the butt of a cigarrette the he had smoked while he was being questioned for a much lower level crime: trespassing in Brooklyn. Guerrero was charged with rape, sodomy, burglary, robbery and attempted robbery— he pleaded guilty to the charges earlier this month.
Prosecutors said Gurerro forced his way into the Orchard Street apartment building of his victim, a then 28-year-old college professor.
During his sentencing, Assistant District Attorney Martha Bashford read an emotional statement from the victim describing how her life was turned upside by the violent act, and that she will never be the same. The victim did not appear in court.
"At the time I was a confident young New Yorker, the crime changed that" Bashford said, reading from the statement. "Mr. Guerrero tormented me, cut my face, threatened to rape my friend."
Prosecutors said Guerrero overpowered her, raped and sexually assaulted her, then forced the woman to take him to get cash from an ATM by threatening her with large, sharp piece of broken glass. The woman was able to break free after he attempted to take her to a second ATM.
The victim, in her statment, said it took her nearly ten years to get her life back on track - but added "for the rest of my life I will feel fear."
Guerrero sat quietly through the hearing, and declined to make a statement."
Guerrero's lawyer had said last year they would try to fight the rape charge by arguing that the statue of limitations had run out.
But prosecutors had indicted a "John Doe" with Guerrero's DNA profile in 2005 to preserve the case when the statute of limitation expired. This is common practice when investigators have the DNA sample but no suspect.
This case, prosecutors say, was handled the same way any other "John Doe" case has been.
Guerrero, who had prior misdemeanor offenses along with a DWI conviction, faced up to 25 years in jail.
“Without the state’s DNA databank, this defendant might never have been apprehended,” said District Attorney Vance in a statment. “But because New Yorkers live in a state that recognizes the power of DNA to convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent, this crime victim is able to finally see justice be served nearly 14 years later."