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Kenneth Smith was convicted Friday of beating a Buffalo telephone repairman last Christmas Eve and stealing his van.

A jury deliberated about 2 1/2 hours before finding Smith, 34, formerly of Monroe Street, guilty of robbery, assault, larceny, stolen property and traffic charges in connection with the attack the morning of Dec. 24 on Broadway at Jefferson Avenue. Smith showed no emotions as the verdict was announced shortly after 6 p.m.

Erie County Judge Timothy J. Drury, who had sent Smith to prison in 1991 for an earlier robbery, set sentencing for Feb. 4 and ordered him to remain jailed.

Court officials said Smith, also known as Raymond E. Smith, faces a prison term of at least 15 years to life and at most 25 years to life as a persistent felon because of his three previous convictions for Buffalo robberies and burglaries.

During the weeklong trial, the 33-year-old phone technician identified Smith as the man who bludgeoned him, stole his van keys and drove off in his company-owned van.

In addition, a male motorist testified that he saw Smith attack the victim.

The witness and another male motorist told the jury they followed Smith in their cars until he crashed the stolen van in a field on Monroe and ran away.

Buffalo police arrested Smith several hours later in a house on Monroe between Broadway and Peckham Street after receiving tips.

Prosecutor Eugene P. Adams said Smith's criminal record dates back to age 16 when he was arrested in a robbery and includes burglary and robbery convictions in 1987, 1988 and 1991.

In the 1991 conviction Drury sentenced Smith to 4 1/2 to nine years in prison. However, Smith was later placed in a temporary release program and escaped in March 1995. He was captured several months later in Buffalo.

He was paroled in June 1996.

As a result of his latest conviction, he faces an additional five years in prison on parole violation charges, court officials said.

Charles J. Gallagher, Smith's attorney, said the conviction will be appealed.

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