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Man convicted of sex battery, armed burglary

Dony Cisneros, whose own lawyer said he lied his way out of a rape charge last April, was convicted Thursday of one count of sexual battery and two counts of armed burglary.

A Hillsborough jury took about an hour and a half to convict Cisneros, a Venezuelan national, of raping a Tampa woman in September 2002 and confronting a Town 'N Country woman while armed with a knife three months later.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Wayne Timmerman sentenced Cisneros, 25, to three consecutive life sentences.

Cisneros made headlines after winning an acquittal in April on a charge of raping a Bayshore Boulevard woman. Defense attorney Jorge Chalela reported that Cisneros had confessed his guilt to him before trial, but that Cisneros insisted on testifying falsely that he had consensual sex with the woman. Cisneros testified to his innocence this week in the two other incidents, but the jury didn't buy his claims this time. "We're pleased that the jury could identify his story for what it was _ a story," said prosecutor Michael Sinacore.

City to pursue funding to extend streetcar line

TAMPA _ The Tampa City Council on Thursday agreed to pursue federal funding to extend the streetcar line to Whiting Street.

The TECO Line Streetcar System now runs from Ybor City to the Channel District to the Tampa Convention Center. The next leg is planned to run north to Franklin Street through downtown Tampa to Whiting Street.

HARTline runs the streetcar, but Council member Shawn Harrison said Hillsborough public transit agency hasn't aggressively sought funding for the extension.

"Streetcar projects nationwide are huge," said Harrison, who recently returned from a public transit conference in Los Angeles. Competition for federal money to fund them is fierce, he said.

Council member Linda Saul-Sena, a member of the HARTline board, said having the city behind the effort to get federal funding would give it an "extra oomph."

Most of the $53-million spent on the first leg of the streetcar system came from federal agencies, Harrison said. Tampa contributed $13-million to the construction, and Mayor Pam Iorio said she won't commit any money to the extension.