MAYS LANDING — Hiten Patel was a rapist, not a john, when he trolled Atlantic City’s Pacific Avenue looking for women in summer 2012, a jury decided Wednesday.
The Egg Harbor Township man was convicted of sexually assaulting or attempting to assault five of the seven women who testified against him during his three-week trial.
Patel, 35, said he was addicted to prostitutes and had paid about 200 women for sex since 2008 or 2009.
But while some of the women admitted they were working as prostitutes at the time of the attacks, they said things changed when Patel parked and took out a gun.
He would order them to undress, they said. Some escaped. Others were forced to have sex, while Patel held them by their throats, according to the testimony.
The weapon he used was actually a toy, with a socket taped to the end to make it look more real “for protection,” Patel testified.
The jury disagreed with his version of events.
Patel was found guilty on 22 of the 34 counts against him, including all seven involving possession of an imitation firearm.
“Due to the brave women who came forward and faced their attacker, this defendant will now be unable to harm anyone else,” Assistant Prosecutor John Flammer said after the verdict.
Patel, who had been free on bail, showed no emotion as the verdict was read. After the jurors were dismissed, Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury revoked bail, and Patel was taken into custody as his wife cried.
Even before the jury came into the courtroom to give its verdict, Patel’s mother began sobbing.
She collapsed in her son’s arms as he held her. Other supporters also began to cry, hugging the defendant.
“I had spoken to the family, and they were prepared for the verdict,” defense attorney James Leonard Jr. said outside the courtroom.
The jury’s only question concerned the July 2012 attack on a woman identified as L.C.
She told police Patel penetrated her with his finger while trying to pull her back inside his vehicle as she tried to flee. But during his closing arguments, Leonard pointed out that she first told police that the man grabbed her by the hips. Under further questioning by Detective Al Herbert, she said that Patel’s finger had gone inside her.
The judge rejected the jury’s attempt to consider a lesser charge of attempted sexual assault in that case, rather than aggravated sexual assault. Patel was found not guilty on the bigger charge.
The jury also found Patel not guilty of attacking G.H. She testified Patel ripped her clothing and raped her. But during cross-examination, she cursed at Leonard and left the courtroom, later returning to finish her testimony.
The jury cleared Patel of criminal restraint in all the incidents except for the case of one person: K.G. She was an 18-year-old visiting from Delaware when Patel offered her a ride to the train station, she testified.
She jumped from the moving vehicle after Patel pulled the gun on her and still has asphalt come out when she brushes her hair, she testified.
“I’m ecstatic,” said K.G.’s mother, Dottie Simpson, when reached by phone after the verdict. “We both are.”
Leonard, the defense attorney, called it a mixed verdict.
“From a legal standpoint, the jury accepted and rejected theories from both sides,” he said. “From a practical standpoint, my client is in jail and looking at a lengthy prison sentence.”
Patel previously rejected a 30-year plea deal in the case. At the time, his lawyer indicated he would not accept any plea deal.
“Mr. Patel and his family are disappointed and want to continue their fight,” Leonard said Wednesday. “It was a difficult case for all parties, and I respect the jury’s verdict.”
A sentencing date was set for April 4, but that is just a hold date. Due to the nature of the crimes, Patel must first undergo an evaluation required of sex offenders at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Avenel.
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