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Sex offender is held without bail on charges of kidnapping pre-teen girls in Cambridge

Lionel Brathwaite was led from the rear of the courthouse to a sheriff's transport bus on Tuesday.
Lionel Brathwaite was led from the rear of the courthouse to a sheriff's transport bus on Tuesday.(Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff)

MEDFORD — A convicted rapist was ordered held without bail Tuesday at his arraignment on charges of briefly kidnapping two pre-teen sisters last week as they walked down a Cambridge street, and allegedly threatening to kill them if they called police.

Lionel Ivan Brathwaite Jr., 52, who is homeless, was charged in Cambridge District Court with two kidnapping counts, according to authorities. The Level 3 sex offender was ordered held without bail until a dangerousness hearing slated for March 1.

He remained hidden from view during the arraignment.

Brathwaite’s lawyer, Sean T. Delaney, questioned the process by which Brathwaite was identified. He said his client “was paraded on the news media for several days,” and noted that only one of the victims identified him from photo arrays.

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“My client adamantly denies the allegations against him,” he said.

A police report filed in court laid out details of the girls’ harrowing ordeal, which began shortly before 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 13 at the intersection of Auburn and Pleasant streets.

The twin sisters told police that they were walking home from the Amigos School when a man, later identified as Brathwaite, asked for directions to Magazine Street. When he got closer, he said, “I don’t want to hurt you. If you yell, I’ll shoot you,” according to the report.

Brathwaite then grabbed the arm of one sister and said, “Grab on to me hard. Do what I say, I don’t want to hurt you. I am not going to hurt you if you come with me,” the report alleged.

Lionel Ivan Brathwaite Jr.
Lionel Ivan Brathwaite Jr. (Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board)

He proceeded to walk with the girls down several streets. As they walked, Brathwaite, who smelled of alcohol, said, “You don’t have to tell anyone about this,” the report stated. “If you tell the police I will kill you.”

At one point, the trio stopped in front of a small side street. The man asked the girls to go down the alleyway with him, to which they replied, “No, we’re too scared,” according to the police report.

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The suspect then began apologizing to them and said he was suffering from PTSD from serving time in prison, the report states.

He put his hands on their shoulders and said, “I am not a pervert, I’m not a rapist, I’m not a predator.” Once he released the girls, they ran toward their house without looking back, police said.

April O’Brien, the assistant district attorney, said the two young girls “repeatedly” told the man that they were scared, and were both fearful of what would happen if they sought help from a passerby.

“Multiple people walked by them,” O’Brien said, “but they were scared to say something, because he had threatened to shoot them if they yelled or asked for help.”

Police nabbed Brathwaite on a warrant Saturday morning in Central Square.

He was previously convicted in 2003 on a charge of aggravated rape, according to the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board. The board lists his address as “On the Street” in the area of Tremont Street and Massachusetts Avenue in Boston.

The board classifies Brathwaite as a Level 3 offender, meaning he’s considered a high risk to reoffend and presents a high degree of danger to the public, records show.

During the arraignment, a probation officer told Judge Roanne Sragow that Brathwaite had had a lengthy criminal record with 22 convictions, and had violated his probation by missing office visits and failing to submit to a substance abuse evaluation.

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Brathwaite’s record stretches back to the 1980s. The charges included assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, shoplifting, aggravated rape, rape, robbery, kidnapping, carrying a dangerous weapon, drinking in public, failing to register as a sex offender, and larceny.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.