Emotional Showdown In Court As Victim Yael Leopold Confronts Santiago

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – There was an emotional courtroom confrontation Friday as a woman faced the man who slashed her on the subway nearly a decade ago. CBS 2’s Pablo Guzman reported the exclusive story.

Yael Leopold was slashed in the face by Edwin Santiago while waiting for a subway train nine years ago. For the first time since then, she confronted him.

“To say I had a sense of fear when I saw him – paralyzed, with this fear – when I saw him again in the courtroom, is an understatement,” Leopold said. “My whole life was turned upside down in 2003, and the thought of anything less than the maximum amount has worried me on a daily basis.”

The maximum would have been 25 years.

Santiago loudly and emotionally maintained his innocence.

“I’ve never seen that lady in my life!” Santiago said. “I feel sorry for what happened to her, but what has that got to do with me?”

After his statement, Santiago appeared spent and sat with his emotions. He was fighting tears and buried his face in his hands, Guzman reported.

Leopold was attacked waiting for the J train on Chambers Street on January 10, 2003. She picked Santiago out of a lineup, and said he first asked her if she was an escort, then cut her face, hands and legs. The wounds required 50 stitches.

Santiago’s sister Wanda was at court and defended her brother.

“The height was wrong, the weight was wrong,” Wanda Santiago said. “I just feel like since it was around voting time, they needed to find someone to blame, because it was a tragic incident.”

The judge took note of the time Santiago has already served, saying it would be deducted from the sentence, Guzman reported. That means about eight or nine years will be taken away from the 21 years he was sentenced to.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. applauded Leopold’s courage and determination, noting that the attack didn’t deter her from fulfilling her dream of becoming a teacher.

“After being viciously slashed by a stranger on a subway platform, the victim in this case showed remarkable resiliency and determination not to let this terrifying episode define her experience in New York,” said Vance. “In fact, following her attack, she moved here and began teaching public school students in Washington Heights. I would like to thank Judge Kahn for delivering a strong sentence today that takes into account the severity of this violent crime.”

What do you think of the confrontation? Do you agree with the sentence? Sound off in our comments section below.

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