Victim testifies, identifies defendant in rape

The trial of an Augusta man accused of rape and kidnapping began Thursday.

James Benjamin, 29, has pleaded not guilty in Richmond County Superior Court.

Mr. Benjamin contends he was miles away from where the victim was attacked in the early morning hours of July 19, 2008, in Barton Village.

The 59-year-old woman who identified Mr. Benjamin as the man who beat, choked and raped her testified Thursday she is positive he was the attacker.

The woman was walking up the street from her home to go visit a friend who lived nearby when a man she said was Mr. Benjamin grabbed her in a choke hold and dragged her into a dark backyard. Though she didn't personally know Mr. Benjamin, she had seen him a few times at his brother's home in her neighborhood.

"He wanted to kill me more than he wanted to rape me," the woman testified. He repeatedly choked her nearly to death to the point she had no strength to fight back, she testified.

She said the man told her she was going to die. When he finished the sexual assault he told her to run "or I'll kill you for real," she quoted.

Assistant Public Defender Alexia Davis told the jury in her opening statement that Mr. Benjamin was at his mother's home near Lake Olmstead at the time the woman was attacked.

Assistant District Attorney Justin Jones told the jury no DNA evidence tied Mr. Benjamin to the attack, but the woman was certain of her identification.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.