An Indian-American man was found guilty by a US federal jury of sexually assaulting five women during the summer of 2012, on some occasions threatening them with a toy gun.
Hiten Patel, 35, of Egg Harbor Township faces life imprisonment. He was arrested in August 2012 after he was found linked to at least 10 sexual assaults in New Jersey’s Atlantic City near here.
After a three-week trial that ended yesterday, Patel was found guilty of 22 of 34 offences, including multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault, attempted sexual assault, possession of an imitation firearm, impersonating a law enforcement officer and making terroristic threats.He was convicted of one count each of attempted robbery and criminal restraint, the Philly.com reported.
Following the verdict, Patel’s bail was revoked and he was remanded into custody. He faces a maximum penalty of life in state prison when sentenced in April.
Patel would now have to undergo an evaluation at a diagnostic and treatment centre for convicted sex offenders.
As the verdict was read, Patel’s wife and mother began crying in the courtroom.
“This guilty verdict should serve as a reminder and deterrent of the grave consequences in store for individuals who seek to take advantage of vulnerable victims, especially women,” assistant prosecutor John Flammer said in a statement.
“Due to the brave women who came forward and faced their attacker, this defendant will now be unable to harm anyone else.”
According to information at trial, prosecutors said Patel threatened his victims with a toy gun and in at least one incident, he was disguised as a police officer.
Seven women testified against him at trial and offered similar accounts of how Patel threatened them and sexually assaulted them at gunpoint.
Some women testified they were forced to have sex, while Patel held them by their throats.
Police had seized the toy handgun from Patel’s car after his arrest and investigators said it had been altered to appear a like a real gun.
Patel denied having sexually assaulted the women and said majority of his victims were prostitutes whom he had solicited for consensual sex. He denied threatening the women with the toy gun and claimed that he had paid them.
While prosecutors agreed that some of the victims were former prostitutes, they said Patel targeted them for assault “because he believed they were unlikely to go to the police,” Flammer said.
Patel was already under investigation in connection with a series of similar sexual assaults.
Prosecutors said several victims individually identified Patel as their attacker, either through a photo lineup or by seeing his photo in the media.