MEDIA COURTHOUSE – A 50-year-old Chester man has been convicted for a second time of rape and related offenses in a 2019 sexual assault involving a 17-year-old girl.
Vernon Canty protested the verdict, which came after five and a half hours of jury deliberation, and maintained his innocence even as he was led out of court.
“I did not do it. I didn’t do it!” he yelled. “I don’t care what the jury said, I didn’t do it. She is lying.”
Canty, of the 500 block of East 24th Street, was found guilty of rape by threat of coercion, involuntary deviation from sexual intercourse by threat of coercion, sexual assault and false detention of a minor. He was acquitted on two other counts of rape and IDSI.
The victim told Assistant District Attorney Danielle Gallaher that Canty hit her in his gray pickup truck on the night of July 19, 2019 on Highland Avenue and Bethel Road and injured her ankle. He then forced her into the two-seater and drove down Interstate 95 into Delaware.
She said Canty exited the freeway at an exit near a hardware store, then turned around and took I-95 back to Chester.
“He was driving fast and I said ‘slow,’ and he told me that if I didn’t take my pants off, he would … turn the car over,” she said.
The victim, now 20, said she complied and Canty left the motorway before driving to a football stadium car park on Chester seafront. She said she told Canty she wanted to go home, but he threatened to run his truck over her if she got out. There were no other cars in the lot, she said.
After they parked, she said he got out of the truck and got on the passenger side of the truck and tried to have sex with her.
The victim said she thinks Canty had sex with her but doesn’t know. She said she cried during the ordeal and repeatedly told Canty that she wanted to go home.
“It felt humbling,” she said. “…I felt ashamed and embarrassed because I just felt like I had no respect, like he didn’t respect me at all.”
As Canty picked up a bottle of E&J brandy and walked to the Delaware River, the victim said she packed her things and ran into a nearby wooded area, where she hid and waited for him to leave. She said she didn’t have a cell phone at the time, so she couldn’t call for help.
Canty claimed during his own testimony that he picked the girl up off the street in his truck and they drove to Delaware to get alcohol. He said he bought the bottle of brandy and some Bud Ice and then took the victim to the stadium parking lot where they had consensual sex in his truck.
Canty said he then took the girl to his friend Robert Anderson’s house because she wanted to have a threesome. Canty claimed he was too drunk to have sex with the victim at Anderson’s house and that Anderson had just started having sex with the girl when Canty’s wife called, so he took her back to the stadium parking lot.
Canty said the alleged victim demanded $20 when they got back to the property. He said he would have given it to her if he could have sex with her again, but he had been drinking too much so he dropped her off on a corner near her house around 1:45 am
Anderson, who now lives out of state, testified at the previous trial but was unavailable this week, Common Pleas Court Judge John Capuzzi said. His previous testimony was read in court but made no mention of sex.
The jury also heard from Chester Police Captain Matthew Goldschmidt, who said the victim identified Canty from a series of photographs after finding a match for the owner of a truck like the one she described.
The jury also heard former Chester officer Joseph Benning, now with the Ridley Township Police Department, who said he found a bottle of brandy at the same location the victim described the day after the rape.
Forensic scientists with the Pennsylvania State Police Crime Lab said Canty’s DNA was found in swabs taken from the victim’s genitals during a rape investigation at Crozer Chester Medical Center.
Kimberly Dougherty, the Crozer emergency room nurse who performed the rape kit, said the victim detailed the waterfront rape, including Canty’s knowledge that she was 17 years old.
It was Canty’s second trial for the same crimes.
He was found guilty in July and was due to be sentenced in October, but Capuzzi granted a new trial on a request for extraordinary exoneration over issues surrounding first jury selection.
Canty was taken into custody following his alleged involvement in another kidnapping on August 7, 2019, according to an affidavit of a probable cause for his arrest, although he faces no additional charges in that incident.
In August, police received a call from a man who said he had received a call from his girlfriend’s cell phone and when he answered he heard a woman yell, “No, I don’t want to get on the freeway,” according to the affidavit.
Benning responded to his location, and while they spoke, the girlfriend called and said she had escaped and was on Third Street and Flower Street, the affidavit said. Chester Officer Zachary Litvinenko picked up the woman and took her to where Benning and the friend were talking.
The woman described being forced into a gray pickup truck by a fat black man and driven to the same area where the earlier rape took place, according to the affidavit. She said she was able to fight off the man when he tried to sexually assault her and she ran to Third and Flower.
According to the affidavit, Canty was pulled over by Officer Justin Otten at a traffic stop later that same night. He drove a gray 2004 Dodge Dakota. Otten called Benning to the scene and they identified the driver as Canty.
District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer issued a statement after the initial verdict, thanking Goldschmidt, Gallaher and Victim Assistance Attorneys Danetta Green and Candace Linehan for their work on the case.
“By working hand-in-hand with our friends at the Victim Support Center, we ensure that we are able to successfully prosecute these difficult cases while protecting and supporting victims,” he said. “We really couldn’t get our work done without their invaluable help.”
Capuzzi revoked the bail and set the sentencing for January 2. Defense attorney Earl Raynor noted that an attendance investigation and assessment by the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board had already been conducted.