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A 46-year-old Port Huron man was sentenced Friday to 15-30 years behind bars for a brutal sexual assault that was solved as a result of processing an old rape kit.

Wayne County Circuit Judge Vonda Evans told Anthony Dorian Thornton, “today you will pay for the assault,” before handing out a sentence of 15-30 years for each count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and 15-30 years for unlawful imprisonment.

Thornton was convicted on two counts of criminal sexual conduct. The sentences will run concurrently.

Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Jaimie Powell Horowitz asked Evans to sentence Thornton to as much as life behind bars.

“This man is a predator,” said Horowitz. “This man will re-offend.”

Evans convicted Thornton on the charges during a bench trial June 2 in the rape of a 19-year-old lesbian he met while both were living at a Detroit homeless shelter in April 2010.

Thornton told the victim, who now identifies as a transgender male, he could help in finding employment when the two, along with two other men, went to an abandoned building to drink, smoke and play cards.

As the 19-year-old victim tried to leave, she was attacked by Thornton and the two other men. Thornton, according to investigators, held the victim down and bound her, and the other men held her down and took turns raping her.

Evans told Thornton he and the others passed the victim “around like a rag doll and then left her like trash” and “robbed her of her innocence.”

A rape kit conducted on the victim was not processed until March 2015. It revealed a match to Thornton, officials said.

The judge said the woman was victimized again by the delay in processing her rape kit, allowing Thornton to assault another victim nearly a year later in 2011.

In that case, a woman who was invited to a Detroit residence by a friend found Thornton there instead.

Investigators said Thornton overpowered the woman and raped her. He allegedly only stopped when he heard someone at the door, allowing the victim to escape through a back door and report the crime.

Just as in the first case, the rape kit sat untested for several years. When it was recently processed, a DNA match identified Thornton as the woman’s attacker.

Thornton’s defense attorney, Kiana Franulic, said her client has had mental health problems going to back to childhood.

“Mr. Thornton is not a predator,” said Franulic during his sentencing hearing Friday. “He clearly has mental health issues.”

Thornton, who hurled obscenities at Evans when she found him guilty of the 2010 rape earlier this month, apologized to the judge: “I’m sorry, your honor, for the way I behaved.”

He is scheduled to go to trial in the 2011 case later this year. Evans set a pretrial hearing for July 20.

The investigation into Thornton’s crimes was assisted by the Fair Michigan Justice Project, a program which helps law enforcement agencies solves crimes committed against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender individuals.

bwilliams@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2027

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