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Homeless man on trial for rapes of prostitutes and drug users pleads guilty

A homeless man accused of raping prostitutes and drug users interrupted his trial Friday morning to plead guilty as charged.

Emmanuel L. Jenkins and a jury had heard two days of testimony, including graphic descriptions of the assaults from two of his victims, when the 30-year-old Jenkins announced his intention to plead guilty.

The change came as a surprise even to Jenkins’ attorney, Brian Parker.

While the second victim was testifying Thursday afternoon, Jenkins stood up, knocked over his chair and tried to leave the courtroom. He quickly was restrained and removed by court officers, but there was some question whether he would return to court Friday.

He did return and pleaded guilty Friday to three counts of predatory sexual assault, one count of rape, two counts of aggravated sexual abuse, and two counts of forcible criminal sexual act.

Investigators believe that the three victims were not the only women Jenkins assaulted, Assistant District Attorney Ryan Haggerty said.

Jenkins preyed on prostitutes and drug users, gaining their trust with promises of drugs or a chance to “party” before holding them at knifepoint while he repeatedly raped and sodomized them, prosecutors said.

Both victims who took the stand said they feared for their lives while he held them against their will and assaulted them, and both reported the attacks to police after they were able to flee.

Jenkins was eventually apprehended after he was picked up by CSX Railroad Police Officer Michael Johnson on Aug. 21. Johnson testified in an earlier hearing that he and other officers were doing clean-up sweeps in the rail tunnels on the southern edge of downtown when he first encountered Jenkins, who was sleeping in the tunnel.

Johnson said he woke Jenkins, gave him a verbal warning and told him to find another place to live. But that evening, Jenkins was back in the tunnel, so he was charged with trespassing and taken to Buffalo Police Headquarters.

Detective Jacqueline S. Sullivan was waiting for him. She and Detective Natalie Perez had been looking for Jenkins as a suspect in the rapes; he has been in custody since that time.

The assaults occurred in vacant buildings in the area of Grant Street and West Ferry in May and June of 2015.

After his arrest Jenkins refused to give a DNA sample voluntarily, so the judge had to order that one be obtained. The DNA confirmed Jenkins was the attacker, prosecutors said.

Following the conviction, Acting District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty Jr. praised the witnesses for their courage and resilience in coming forward.

“This defendant preyed upon their isolation and vulnerability, believing either that they would never report his crimes, or that no one would believe them,” Flaherty said. “Today, we have proved that law not only applies to everyone equally, it also protects everyone equally.”

Jenkins has a prior felony conviction along with a number of misdemeanors. He faces a possible maximum prison term of 50 years to life when he is sentenced by State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang on April 26.