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Man gets 15 years in prison for West Side attack on woman

The college student who Calvin J. Withrow choked, battered and robbed did not return to court Tuesday morning for his sentencing. She is moving on with her life, her mother told the judge.

She has decided not to be “the victim” anymore.

Withrow, who was convicted by a jury of second-degree robbery, was sentenced to the maximum of 15 years in prison plus five years post release supervision.

Erie County Judge Sheila A. DiTullio also signed orders of protection to keep Withrow and his friends and family from making any contact with the victim through 2039.

Jurors deliberated just 23 minutes to find Withrow guilty of the attack on the student at the front door of her home on Prospect Avenue when she was returning from her overnight job on Aug. 2, 2014. As DiTullio described it again before pronouncing sentence, Withrow put his arm around the neck of his much-smaller victim and began choking her and trying to get her purse. As she realized she could no longer breathe, she reached for a box cutter her employer had given her for protection and began slashing at Withrow’s hands and arms.

“You started punching her in the face and you pounded her head into the pavement,” DiTullio said. “She managed to ask ‘Why are you doing this?’ and you said ‘Because this is the ’hood.’ ”

Even in her fear and pain, the judge said, the woman was offended, because she loved where she lived.

“Her good neighbors did come out to help her,” the judge said, and Withrow fled with the purse.

He left behind his DNA in blood on the victim and his wallet, full of personal identification, that had fallen during the violent attack.

The victim suffered two black eyes, and broken bones in her face. She missed work and a semester of school.

It has been nearly two years, though, and her mother, Lori Williams, came to Buffalo to say her daughter is recovering. She has graduated from college, has a job and is planning on starting work on a master’s degree.

“I have fantasized about this day for 21 months, to confront this man” said Williams, who was standing in for her daughter to present a victim’s statement. “I know you are not sorry. You have never expressed any remorse for my daughter and the neighborhood you terrorized. We are not going to allow you to victimize us. We are going to move on.”

Williams said her daughter still has pain from her injuries and is not as outgoing as she was, and on her behalf she asked for the maximum possible sentence. She pointed out that Withrow was on parole from another robbery when he attacked her daughter.

“He shouldn’t be a part of society,” she said.

Assistant District Attorney Seth T. Molisani, who prosecuted the case, said of Withrow: “He is a predator, he is a menace, he is a coward.”

The prosecutor credited the response of the young woman’s neighbors, who ran from their own homes at 4:30 in the morning when they heard her screams.

DiTullio also praised the neighbors who rushed to the woman’s aid and thwarted what could have been an even more serious assault, and she noted that the victim wanted Withrow to go to prison not only for justice “but for the safety of other young women.”

“You are a violent criminal. You are a thug. You seem quite proud of robbing and beating a young woman half your size,” DiTullio said. “Maybe you can brag about it in prison.”

She then sentenced him to the maximum allowable term of 15 years.

email: mmiller@buffnews.com