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Rape victims face suspect’s questioning in court

Accused Cambridge man represents himself in brutal 2008 knife attack

Accused rapist Marcos Colono delivered his opening statement in Suffolk Superior Court Thursday.

Angela Rowlings/Pool

Accused rapist Marcos Colono delivered his opening statement in Suffolk Superior Court Thursday.

It is an event they have tried to forget for the last six years. But on Thursday, two women raped at knifepoint by a masked man who burst into their college apartment in September 2008 took the stand in Suffolk Superior Court to recount the brutal attack and to face questions from their alleged assailant.

Neither woman looked at accused rapist Marcos Colono, 36, as they described to the court how the masked man pressed the knife to their bodies and forced them to lie on their stomachs in the living room and raped them repeatedly. The man told them to be quiet; he said he would “leave happy.”

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When he was finished, the masked man tied them up.

“He was deciding whether or not he should stay and wait for [our third roommate] to get back, or if he should just leave,” said one of the women, who appeared to cry softly throughout her testimony, but who spoke firmly as she was questioned by the prosecutor. “A little while later, we realized we couldn’t hear him anymore.”

The Globe does not identify victims of sex crimes.

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Colono, who is representing himself after firing four attorneys, then questioned each woman briefly. He referred to the rapes only as “the incident.” His questions focused on a cellphone that was stolen from one of the women days before the attack; how evidence was collected from their bodies after the attack; and which of the two women the masked man had spoken to most. Both women sat rigidly and looked away from him as they answered his questions.

“Thank you . . . for your strength,” Colono told one woman when he was finished questioning her. She did not respond.

Defendants who represent themselves in criminal cases have the right to do anything a lawyer would, including questioning victims, said Thomas Drechsler, a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor who is not connected to the Colono case.

“As distasteful and uncomfortable as this is, and it certainly is, once a defendant . . . decides to assume the role of counsel, they are entitled to make an opening statement, a closing argument, and question witnesses,” said Drechsler. “He does have a constitutional right to confront his accuser.”

Colono, of Cambridge, is already serving a sentence of 74 to 85 years in prison for raping an 11-year-old boy in front of his 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.

In her opening statement, Assistant District Attorney Holly Broadbent said that DNA from the Cambridge scene matched DNA from the previously unsolved 2008 rapes, which occurred in an apartment on Commonwealth Avenue. Fingerprints from the Cambridge scene identified the rapist in that case as Colono, she said.

“Fingerprints and DNA, ladies and gentlemen, that will be the evidence in this case,” said Broadbent. “And, ladies and gentlemen, you will convict the defendant of everything.”

The two women spent most of Sept. 21, 2008, sleeping, they testified, and in the evening, one of them buzzed in a person they thought was their third roommate. The woman then heard a knock on the door, but there was no one there when she opened it, she said. When she closed the door, the masked man burst through it and forced both women to the floor in a bedroom, she said.

The man placed shelving and a sewing machine on their backs, they said, so they could not move without making noise, and then walked around the rest of the apartment. At first, one woman said, she thought they were being robbed, and one of the women offered him her laptop.

But then, knife pressed to their bodies, he took them one by one to an air mattress in the living room and forced them to lie on their stomachs next to each other, they said. The man raped them both repeatedly, the women said. He was vulgar, they said, and they were silent.

After he raped them, the masked man tied up the women in the bedroom and placed objects on their backs again. He took their identification and at least one woman’s cellphone.

“He said, ‘Tomorrow, you’re gonna be wondering if this was random or intentional,’ ” testified one of the women. “ ‘You should watch your friends closer than your enemies.’ ”

Both women testified that after they were raped, they withdrew from school and left Boston.

Colono, who was flanked by several court officers throughout proceedings, told the jury in his opening statement that he was “wrongfully convicted” in the 2010 case.

“I was wrongfully convicted — why? They didn’t allow me to testify,” Colono said.

Colono claimed that he was raped in the backyard of the Cambridge home of his 2010 victim.

He also claimed that one of the victims’ stories had “inconsistencies.”

Colono implored the jury to think about how difficult testifying would be for him.

“I’m trying my heart out here,” he said. “I’m mustering as much strength as I can right now.”

During hearings without the jury present, Judge Janet Sanders, Broadbent, Colono, and Colono’s standby counsel, Daniel Solomon, discussed Colono’s defense.

Colono’s potential witness list includes Broadbent and the father of the 11-year-old Colono raped, though Sanders told him he would need to explain what evidence he hoped to hear from the people on his list.

Jonathan Saltzman of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @evanmallen.

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