Tuesday, December 13, 2011
A black serial rapist convicted of preying on five petite Manhattan women in the summer of 2009 exploded with rage at one of his victims’ racially charged remarks just before the judge clocked him with a 428-year prison sentence
A slender 59-year-old performing artist said that African-American Vincent Heyward's knife-point rape and sodomy of her in a Hamilton Heights alley left her a physical, emotional and financial wreck and affected her in ways that shamed her. "I started to look at black men differently," she told the judge. "That's not fair. They are not responsible for what happened to me. Racism disgusts me and that's not who I am." Then in a calm voice the victim, who still takes Prozac to combat her anxieties, spoke directly to Heyward: "Not all black men are you. No other black men are you!" That provoked the shackled, Heyward, 23, to explode out of his seat at the defense table. As four court officers subdued him, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Ronald Zweibel sternly demanded: "Take a seat, Mr. Heyward!" The rapist muttered to court officers that he wanted to leave the room, the judge said. Heyward remained out of the room as the white woman described how her marriage, just a year old when she was attacked, has reached a breaking point because she and her husband have had to deal with the loss of her job, extraordinary bills from her medical and psychiatric care, her sharp temper and intense anxieties. "I feel ruined," she said. "I realized the other day I haven't laughed in years." In the hushed courtroom, the woman's husband quietly wept as others watched. The audience included Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance and Heyward's mother who was overheard muttering in the back row "They're lying. They're lying." Assistant District Attorney Janine Gilbert said that Heyward's attacks started in August 2009, just six weeks after he was released from a Virginia prison after serving time for grand larceny. Gilbert said that from early August 2009 to mid September 2009, Heyward who used a knife in four attacks, got more skillful, vicious and bolder in his assaults - starting in an alley, then moving to elevators and building lobbies and ending in the bedroom of a sleeping victim. "He made everyone's worst nightmare come true and terrorized the neighborhood," Gilbert said. Four of Heyward's victims were attacked in Harlem neighborhoods. A fifth woman, attacked in Chinatown, had her head bashed repeatedly against a marble stairwell and floor. She said that she literally runs home after work. "The night was and still is my enemy," she said. Heyward was caught by police after Manhattan was plastered with sketches of him and one alert officer recognized him on the street. At first Heyward was cooperative, jokingly admitting to the police officer that the sketch looked like him. Later, at his Supreme Court arraignment, he was spotted grinning slightly when his assaults were described. Since then, Gilbert said, Heyward has assaulted several other inmates at Rikers. Zweibel called Heyward an extreme threat to society and said that the only way to protect society is to impose a sentence that makes sure he will be never be released for the rest of his natural life. Vance's spokeswoman Erin Duggan said that Zweibel's sentence was the longest sentence the DA's office has ever seen in a rape case. "The defendant showed these brave women no mercy, and today he received none," Vance said.