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Judge warns Cambridge rape defendant on delay

Defendant Marcos Colono refused to attend opening statements Wednesday morning, saying he did not have enough time to study legal documents. But Suffolk Superior Court Judge Janet Sanders warned Colono, who is representing himself after firing four lawyers, against trying to disrupt the trial. She said the trial can proceed in his absence.

Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

Defendant Marcos Colono refused to attend opening statements Wednesday morning, saying he did not have enough time to study legal documents. But Suffolk Superior Court Judge Janet Sanders warned Colono, who is representing himself after firing four lawyers, against trying to disrupt the trial. She said the trial can proceed in his absence.

A Suffolk Superior Court judge on Wednesday warned a Cambridge man already convicted of raping an 11-year-old boy that she would remove him from court if he tries to disrupt his trial on charges of raping two women in Boston after the man refused to attend opening statements Wednesday morning because he said he needed to study legal materials.

“I’m concerned that once the jury starts hearing evidence, that you may think up some other ways to abort these proceedings,” Judge Janet Sanders told Marcos Colono, 36, on Wednesday afternoon, after hours of delays resulted in the jury being sent home without hearing openings. “If you’re present in courtroom, there is a rule that requires you to behave in a dignified fashion. If you do anything to disrupt these proceedings, then I have the power to remove you.”

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Colono, who is representing himself in the Suffolk trial after firing four lawyers, complained that he did not have enough time to study legal documents to prepare his defense because he is in prison, and that he spent too much time in a transportation van.

“You know, when I think about it, prison is an obstruction of justice; it’s hard for one to study,” said Colono, who spoke while surrounded by court officers, and often interrupted the judge to object to things she was saying.

He is accused of raping two college students in September 2008 in their Commonwealth Avenue apartment. He allegedly threatened the women with a knife as he tied them up and raped them repeatedly, saying he would kill them if they told police. He is facing four charges of aggravated rape, two charges of assault with a dangerous weapon, one charge of home invasion and one charge of armed burglary.

He is already serving a sentence of 74 to 85 years in prison for raping an 11-year-old boy in front of the boy’s father in their Cambridge home in 2010 and then stabbing the man more than 10 times in the neck and back in an apparent attempt to sever his head.

After the 2010 attack, authorities used DNA evidence to link Colono to the 2008 rapes for which he is now on trial.

Assistant District Attorney Holly Broadbent called Colono’s refusal to come to court on Wednesday “an intentional delay.”

When Colono finally arrived in Suffolk Superior Court on Wednesday afternoon from MCI-Norfolk, he told Sanders several times that he could not yet say whether he would agree to attend his trial Thursday, but also said he would agree to be transported to the court.

Sanders said that Colono had undergone a mental health evaluation Wednesday morning and that she had not received any indications of mental health problems. She told Colono that while his presence in court is welcomed, that his trial could continue without him if he decides to “voluntarily absent [himself] without cause.”

Colono asked whether he would be allowed to watch the proceedings remotely and press “an objection button” from another room, but Sanders said no.

“If you want to make those objections, I suggest you be in the courtroom,” she told him. She said that Colono could rely on help from lawyer Daniel Solomon, who is serving as standby counsel to advise him, but Colono said he objected to Solomon’s presence because the two men disagreed on strategy and evidence.

Solomon was the fourth lawyer appointed to defend Colono, but Colono dismissed him this spring after just a few months, and another judge appointed Solomon as his standby counsel over Colono’s objection, said Solomon.

After the hearing, Solomon said that while he has a cordial relationship with Colono, serving as a standby council is difficult.

“In terms of my relationship with him, it’s been fine,” said Solomon. “He’s asked me for assistance and I’ve been able to assist him as much as possible.”

Solomon said he did not know whether Colono planned to deliver an opening statement, cross-examine his alleged victims, or testify in his own defense.

Sanders said that Colono’s trial will resume Thursday.

Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @evanmallen.
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