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Minnesota man accused of being serial rapist found guilty in first trial

Larry Donnell Griffin, 38, of Maplewood, Minn. (Courtesy of Ramsey County)

ST. PAUL—The St. Paul man accused of being a serial rapist who terrorized the city's East Side last year was convicted of assaulting the first of his four accusers.

Larry Griffin, 39, was found guilty of two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Ramsey County District Court on Tuesday.

In August, Griffin picked up a woman walking alone in the evening on Payne Avenue. Payne is a busy street in the city's Payne-Phalen neighborhood, which in recent years has experienced a restaurant and residential renaissance.

Griffin first drove the victim, a 31-year-old Lino Lakes woman, to the apartment of a nearby friend, but came back hours later after she called him for a ride.

She said that rather than drive her to her boyfriend's house, where she said she wanted to pick up some luggage, Griffin pulled his van into an alley, pulled out a gun and raped her.

Griffin's attorney argued that the sex was consensual, and that she did it in order to get back at her then-estranged boyfriend.

In their closing arguments, prosecutors presented the somewhat rare premise that the victim in the case made one "naive, bad choice after another." Getting in a stranger's car, giving him her phone number, letting him contact her later.

But in the end, "a bad choice is not a justification for a rape," assistant Ramsey County prosecutor Sarah Cory argued.

"What would be her motivation for this lie?" Cory added. "This isn't a civil trial. ... She wasn't caught having sex with anyone."

Prosecutors also argued that some of the inconsistencies in the woman's testimony — including her statements to a police officer — were "understandable" because she was the victim of a traumatic sexual assault.

Public defender John Riemer countered that it was an unfair standard that his client was supposed to remember every detail of what happened, but the woman wasn't.

The woman is the first that Ramsey County prosecutors say were raped by Griffin in his vehicle between August and October last year. Two of the others also were approached while walking on Payne Avenue late in the evening; the fourth involved a woman walking on nearby Maryland Avenue.

One of the other women testified in this week's trial, saying she got into Griffin's car to smoke methamphetamine, and Griffin pulled a knife on her before assaulting her. Prosecutors used the testimony to argue that Griffin had a similar strategy both times.

Charges have been filed in the other cases, but a trial date has yet to be set. Riemer said the other cases against Griffin do not involve a consent defense, and largely rely on DNA evidence.

Griffin will be sentenced July 6; he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 12 years in prison.

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