NEW YORK -- A man with a history of violence who had been known to haunt parts of Central Park was arraigned early Friday on charges that he beat and raped a 73-year-old birdwatcher near Strawberry Fields, one of the park's most visited areas, in broad daylight earlier in the week.
The attack stunned the city for its brazenness -- it occurred shortly before noon on a warm, sunny day -- and for the fact that it happened so close to a spot that draws crowds of visitors daily. Strawberry Fields, on the western edge of the park, is a memorial to former Beatle John Lennon, who lived in an apartment building nearby.
Police say David Albert Mitchell, 42, who is homeless, attacked the woman Wednesday. She was discovered by a passer-by lying on the ground. On Thursday she picked Mitchell out of a lineup after police walking near the park recognized him from surveillance video captured shortly after the attack.
After his arrest, a defiant Mitchell spat at journalists and said, "I attacked no one."
The woman told local media she believed she was attacked in retaliation for having snapped a photograph of Mitchell exposing himself in another area of the park about two weeks ago. She said she goes regularly to the park to look for birds and photograph them.