Waterbury Republican-American

Waterbury jury convicts man for rape of his wife

Friday, February 25, 2005

By Ben Conery

WATERBURY -- A 44-year-old former city man was convicted Thursday of raping his wife in 2002.

William B. Coleman, now of Newport, R.I., faces more than 30 years in prison when Judge William Cremins sentences him May 6. During their nearly four days of deliberations, the jury of four men and two women asked to hear the victim's entire testimony read back and later asked to rehear portions before convicting Coleman.

Assistant state's attorney Cynthia Serafini, who prosecuted the case, said the victim is relieved by the verdict. "She said she feels safe for the first time in a long time," Serafini said.

The victim, of Waterbury, whom the Republican-American is not identifying because she is the victim of sexual assault, and Coleman were divorced last August after a turbulent nine-year marriage. The former couple are immigrants from Great Britain and have two sons, age 8 and 6.

Without any forensic evidence, the case hinged on the victim's testimony. "An absence of forensic evidence is not necessarily conclusive to whether or not a crime took place," Serafini said after the verdict.

In the end, the jury believed the victim. It convicted Coleman of sexual assault in a spousal relationship, unlawful restraint, breach of peace, second-degree threatening and sixth-degree larceny.

"The testimony of one witness is sufficient to convict," Serafini said during closing arguments last Thursday.

The victim testified that Coleman was controlling and she felt like a prisoner before he raped her in October 2002. The testimony of six other witnesses -- three friends, a divorce lawyer and two police officers -- showed the victim's accusations against Coleman were consistent, Serafini said.

Coleman's lawyers, Michael Gannon and Fanol Bojka, argued that the victim made the rape allegation as a ploy to gain sole custody of their two children.

The rape allegation was made after Coleman filed for sole custody of the children, and the victim hired a divorce lawyer before reporting the rape to police, they noted.

She testified she did not go to the hospital after the assault to have a sexual assault kit performed because "it wasn't a priority."

Coleman was adamant about his innocence during the nearly week-long trial, often times throwing himself back in his chair at the defense table, with an incredulous look on his face during testimony he disputed. Coleman's lawyers did not call any defense witnesses, but it is unclear why. His lawyers could not be reached for comment Thursday.

A polygraph test showed he answered truthfully when he was asked if he raped his wife, but polygraph tests are not allowed to be admitted as evidence in Connecticut. Coleman did not testify during the trial.

Coleman's lawyers also argued Waterbury police didn't scrutinize the victim's claim that she was raped. "This is just outrageous," said Coleman's friend, Carol Kinsley, who added Coleman plans to appeal.

Innocent Imprisoned
Truth in Justice