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Court upholds conviction of man who raped a woman in Dorchester, then used her phone to call 911 because he wasn't feeling well

The Massachusetts Appeals Court today upheld Charles Duncan's 12-to-15 year prison sentence for raping a woman as she was walking home from the Shawmut T stop in 2018, saying he got a fair trial.

The court did strike his conviction for kidnapping as legally "duplicative" of his aggravated-rape conviction, but that ruling does not affect how much time he has to spend in prison because his kidnapping sentence was set to run concurrently with his rape sentence. He was also convicted of unarmed robbery because he took the woman's phone. He is currently housed at the Old Colony Correctional Center in Bridgewater.

According to the court's summary of the case, the woman was walking home from the Shawmut T stop around midnight on May 24, 2018. When she got to Dorchester Avenue and Lonsdale Street, Duncan approached her from behind, put a hard object up to her head and forced her down Lonsdale Street. He claimed the object was a gun and demanded her phone, which she gave him. He then made her go into a Lonsdale Street backyard, where he raped her, told her to never walk down Lonsdale again, then let her get dressed and leave.

She went home, called 911 and was transported to Boston Medical Center for an exam.

Meanwhile, the court continues, Duncan wasn't feeling so well. After walking down Lonsdale away from Dorchester Avenue, he called 911 - on the victim's phone - from Florida Street to request an ambulance because he was "experiencing back pain and anxiety." He told 911 he did not know the phone's number because it belonged to somebody else. EMTs came, concluded he was "disheveled" but did not appear to actually be in any physical distress, but took him to Carney Hospital anyway. There, as they were wheeling him into the emergency room, one of the EMTs learned police were looking for a rape suspect with a description matching their patients - and had taken a phone with the same number he had used to call 911.

Police were summoned, and he was arrested. The victim positively identified him from a series of photos and the DNA from semen found in the woman matched his - and he had blood on his penis; the woman had tried to dissuade him from raping her because she was on her period. One of his fingerprints was lifted from her phone.

In his appeal, Duncan's attorney argued there wasn't enough evidence to convict him of the rape.

The court said yes, there was more than enough evidence. In addition to the DNA matches, the blood, the victim's identification and the phone evidence, prosecutors presented surveillance video showing her walking down Dorchester Avenue followed by a man wearing the same clothing she and the EMTs described.

Although there were some differences in his appearance in court and what the victim described - whether or not he had a chipped tooth - the court said those were minor, and that "those variations were for the jury to consider in assessing the credibility of the victim's testimony that she 'got a good look at [the] person' who raped her and of her description of that man." Also:

[T]he defendant called 911 from a cell phone with the victim's number and directed the dispatcher to send the ambulance to him on Florida Street, which was in the area where the assault occurred. Later, a red sweatshirt and the victim's cell phone were located in that same area, and the defendant's fingerprint was found on the abandoned cell phone.

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