Ithaca, N.Y. — An Ithaca area man charged in 2006 with rape didn’t know it until this fall when he was stopped by local law enforcement for panhandling and arrested, according to his lawyer.

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William Mackenzie, 32, was arrested in Lansing on Nov. 10 on charges of third-degree rape and endangering the welfare of a child.

The crime is alleged to have occurred in the summer of 2006. Mackenzie left the Ithaca area the same week the charges were filed, according to Matthew Van Houten, his public attorney.

By the time law enforcement tried to find him, Mackenzie had disappeared.

“He had planned to leave town,” Van Houten said. “At the time he left town, he didn’t think he’d committed a crime.”

In between leaving Ithaca in 2006 and his arrest this fall, Mackenzie was convicted of a number of crimes in various states, according to Van Houten. Mackenzie served a term of probation in Colorado, Van Houten said.

Apparently, none of the many law enforcement agencies that arrested Mackenzie over the years were alerted to his outstanding warrant in Tompkins County, Van Houten said.

“It’s very remarkable,” says Van Houten. “This is a very unusual case.”

Ithaca Police Department Officer Jamie Williamson said the department showed “due diligence” in trying to contact Mackenzie at the time. But “with limited resources, it’s tough,” Officer Williamson said.

After hearing the evidence, a grand jury indicted Mackenzie. The superior court judge, Williamson said, issued a warrant for Mackenzie’s arrest. But his whereabouts were unknown to officers at the time.

Van Houten said that, in the eight years that Mackenzie was wanted, Mackenzie worked in various states. “For a time, he was just traveling all over the country,” he said.

Mackenzie’s journeys around the country included stops in Ithaca, according to Van Houten. For instance, Mackenzie returned to Ithaca for his sister’s wedding, according to his attorney.

Mackenzie does not have a permanent address in Ithaca, Van Houten said.

In November, the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Department received a complaint of a man panhandling near the Ithaca mall, according to Officer Williamson. After talking with the subject, officers ran a “warrant inquiry” — this is standard procedure, according to Williamson — and discovered the outstanding 2006 warrant.

Court documents show that Mackenzie pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child on Dec. 9. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 6, but court documents show that “the agreed upon sentence is six months in jail.”

The original rape charge is expected to be dismissed as a result of a plea deal.


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Kyle Friend

A senior at Cornell University, Kyle covers the affordable housing crisis for the Ithaca Voice. Reach him through e-mail: kyleafriend@gmail.com.