NEW YORK - The last man convicted of attacking women in Central Park last summer after the National Puerto Rican Day Parade was sentenced to five years Friday, the longest prison term resulting from the melee.
Abel Ortiz, 24, of the Bronx was captured on videotape amid a crowd of rowdy, shirtless men who groped, stripped and sexually abused seven women.
Overall, 50 women were attacked by the mob and 20 testified at the trial of Ortiz and two other defendants; one was acquitted and the other was sentenced to a minimum of 2 1/2 years in prison, bringing the total number of men convicted to 18.
In a statement before sentencing, Ortiz insisted again Friday that he had not joined the mob and that he had been trying to help the women shown in the videotape by creating a distraction so that they could escape.
But in some videotape shown to the jury, Ortiz appeared to be ushering men toward potential victims.
Justice Bernard J. Fried of state Supreme Court in Manhattan was not swayed by Ortiz's argument.
"The video shows your participation, directing men to where the women were," Fried said. "This was like a human fire burning out of control. You fueled the riot and kept it going."
Ortiz was convicted on seven counts of riot and seven counts of assault.
Speaking before the sentence was imposed, the assistant district attorney, Lisa Delpizzo, said Ortiz's arrogance and refusal to accept blame should earn him a stiff sentence.
"He portrayed himself as helping," she said.
During the trial, Ortiz told his attorney, Edward Hamlin, under direct questioning that he had tried to restrain the men. He said that in one moment seen on videotape, he was holding down a man's hand in an attempt to restrain him.
Another image from the videotape depicted Ortiz from the back with his shirt off and hands thrust in the air, appearing to join the melee.
But Ortiz said he was trying to create a distraction so that one woman could flee the crowd.
After being sentenced, Ortiz looked back at his friends and family and shook his head before being led away by court officers.