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Man acquitted of attacking, robbing woman

Mitchel Rivera, 41, found not guilty of robbery, burglary and home invasion

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 41-year-old Jacksonville man accused of robbing and attacking a woman in her home was found not guilty Friday.

Mitchel Rivera was tried on charges of home invasion robbery and burglary with assault.

Police said he attacked and robbed Marti Williams, then 72, in her Arlington home in April 2014. 

A jury acquitted him of those charges Friday after deliberating for 25 minutes, but he is not free because he faces charges in three other cases -- robbery by sudden snatching, burglary to a structure and uttering of forged bills, which involves Williams. All three charges are felonies and Rivera faces 10 years in prison on each count, if convicted.

Rivera has 10 prior felony convictions.

Rivera is due back in court Oct. 14.

Williams testified against Rivera on Thursday, the first day of his trial in Duval County court.

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Williams (pictured, left) said she knows Rivera because he had mowed her lawn. She said about a year and a half ago, he broke into her home, threatened her, demanded money and beat her.

"He said, 'Give me money or I'm going to kill you,'" Williams recalled.

She described in court Thursday the morning she said Rivera broke into her bedroom and attacked her.

"I woke up and there was a man standing beside my bed," Williams said. "He bent down, and he told me if I didn't give him money he was going to kill me."

Williams, now 73, identified her attacker from a photo lineup. She told detectives Rivera did lawn work for her and others in the neighborhood.

"I am absolutely certain that is the same individual," Williams said.

Williams, who lived alone, said Rivera stole her money and beat her, leaving her with a black eye, welts and bruises. Police said Rivera also stole Williams' identity.

Rivera did not testify and his defense team did not call any additional witnesses.

A day after the attack, Williams' home burned down while she was away. Investigators believe it was intentionally set, but so far no one has been charged with the arson.

Flames destroyed the garage and smoke damaged the rest of the building, making the house unlivable for Williams. Williams, who lived alone and does not have close family, lost practically everything she owned.

Jacksonville sheriff's officers arrested Rivera on April 24, 2014. He's been in jail since. His attorney said he's a hard worker, likes to help senior citizens and has maintained his innocence.

After hearing about the attack, victims' advocates with the Justice Coalition got involved, giving Williams support.

In the following months, the Justice Coalition joined with Jacksonville Fire and Rescue firefighters, Jacksonville sheriff's officers and other community groups to rebuild Williams' home. The nonprofit organization Builders Care and the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters also got involved. The public donated thousands of dollars to the cause after hearing Williams' story.

In September 2014, volunteers welcomed Williams back into her newly renovated home, which was dubbed "the house that love rebuilt."

Williams said she was thankful for the love and support during a difficult time. She said she was truly blessed.

"Every single deed that was done on my house and for me is so deeply appreciated," Williams told those who'd gathered. "I would have no home standing right now if it hadn't have been for you people here."

Rivera previously served more than a year in state prison after being convicted of burglary.