By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN, Associated Press
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ A Connecticut judge on Monday agreed to send a man suspected in rapes along the East Coast to Virginia, where he faces more charges and a longer sentence if convicted.
New Haven Superior Court Judge Roland Fasano said he would proceed with the extradition of Aaron Thomas, who kept his head hung down throughout a hearing.
Thomas was arrested in March in his hometown of New Haven, where he pleaded not guilty in March to a charge of raping a woman in 2007. Authorities say DNA confirmed that he is responsible for rapes and other attacks on 17 women from Virginia to Connecticut over the span of a decade.
Virginia prosecutors petitioned to have Thomas face trial first in their state, and Connecticut officials agreed to the extradition request.
If he’s convicted, Thomas faces numerous life sentences in Virginia, compared with about 50 years in Connecticut. Authorities say he’s been linked to six attacks in Virginia, including charges he sexually assaulted two trick-or-treaters at gunpoint.
Joseph Lopez, Thomas’ public defender in Connecticut, said the original plan was to try Thomas first in New Haven. He said he was troubled that the extradition request came only when Thomas was within days of becoming eligible to seek a speedy trial.
Lopez withdrew a legal challenge to the extradition, saying after further research he did not have grounds to pursue it.
But he did seek a speedy trial and asked that Thomas be tried in Connecticut first. Lopez said a delay could hurt a possible mental health defense, noting that he had already been consulting experts.
Fasano did not rule on the motion for a speedy trial, but both he and prosecutors said it made sense to send Thomas to Virginia because of the additional charges. Prosecutors said Thomas would be tried within months in Virginia, compared with years in Connecticut.
It was not clear when Thomas would be transported to Virginia.
Under the extradition, Thomas would not be returned to Connecticut if he gets a sentence of 60 years or more in Virginia.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)