Man convicted in Central City rape faces life sentence

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Robert E. Smith (via Orleans Parish Jail)

A man convicted of kidnapping a 23-year-old woman pregnant with twins from a fast-food restaurant at gunpoint and raping her in a parking lot in November 2015 now faces a life sentence after his conviction Wednesday, authorities said.

Robert E. Smith, 42, was found guilty of charges of first-degree rape, aggravated kidnapping and armed robbery with a firearm in a bench trial before Criminal District Court Judge Franz Zibilich on Wednesday, Dec. 20, according to a news release from District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office. He faces a mandatory life sentence on the rape charge, plus up to 99 years for the armed-robbery charge and up to 40 years on the kidnapping charge, the news release states.

For details, see the full news release:

Smith was found guilty of abducting a 23-year-old woman at gunpoint near a fast-food restaurant at Jackson and South Claiborne avenues in Central City. Smith drove the woman — who was seven months pregnant with twins — to the parking lot of an auto repair shop near Louisiana Avenue and South Miro Street. There, Smith raped the woman and robbed her of $75 before setting her free and fleeing in his blue pickup truck. The distraught victim reported the attack in a frantic 911 call to New Orleans police at 3:15 a.m. on Nov. 1, 2015.

Smith eventually was linked to the crime through a DNA sample collected in the victim’s rape kit. The Louisiana State Police Crime Lab found the sample matched one collected from Smith in 2004, following his conviction on a Peeping Tom charge. In that case, Smith was found guilty of masturbating outside a house in Lafayette. During Wednesday’s trial, Smith attempted to explain away that incident as part of a game of Truth or Dare.

Smith, who was employed by the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans at the time of his arrest last Dec. 29, was indicted by an Orleans Parish grand jury on April 6.

“We are grateful for the verdict and appreciate the decision rendered against this predatory defendant,” Cannizzaro said. “We are gratified that Mr. Smith will never again be able to hurt anyone else.”

In rendering his verdict, Zibilich described his decision as “a simple call” based upon the evidence presented by Rodrigue and the testimony of the victim, now 25. The judge also dismissed Smith’s shameful attempt to portray his victim as a prostitute he had hired.

“This court believes the victim and doesn’t believe Mr. Smith,” Zibilich said.

Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 12. Assistant District Attorneys Laura Rodrigue and Daniel Smart prosecuted the case.

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