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St. Petersburg man who raped woman he met at downtown bar gets 40 years prison

Prosecutors said physical evidence played a key role in getting a conviction.
Anthony Sowell, 24, was found guilty of sexual battery and false imprisonment charges during a jury trial in June.
Anthony Sowell, 24, was found guilty of sexual battery and false imprisonment charges during a jury trial in June. [ Courtesy of Pinellas County Sheriff's Office ]
Published Aug. 17|Updated Aug. 17

A man convicted of raping a woman and holding her hostage in 2020 after they met at a downtown St. Petersburg bar was sentenced to 40 years in prison Friday.

Anthony Sowell, 24, was found guilty of sexual battery and false imprisonment during a jury trial in June. On Friday, he went before Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Joseph Bulone for sentencing.

According to Sowell’s criminal complaint, the victim was drinking at the Bar@548, at 548 Central Ave., and remembers being taken to a man’s house in a car shortly thereafter. At the house, Sowell bound her hands, wrists and mouth with duct tape and raped and beat her, according to the complaint.

Afterward, Sowell called a Lyft to take the victim home. The victim told the Lyft driver what happened and the driver offered to take her to the police. The victim decided to go to the hospital first, where a rape kit test was completed.

Nash Licona, one of the prosecutors assigned to the case, said another woman came forward and said Sowell had raped her under similar circumstances, but she was ultimately too scared to testify. Other people also reached out to the original victim with similar stories involving Sowell, Nash said. Around the time of Sowell’s arrest, St. Petersburg police said they thought he might have attacked other victims, WFLA reported.

Licona said a search of Sowell’s home found duct tape, condoms and blood on the bed, consistent with the victim’s account that she had been menstruating at the time.

“Everything she’s saying is corroborated by the physical evidence,” Licona said in a phone interview.

Licona’s co-counsel, Courtney Sullivan, said the state had asked for a life sentence, but was still satisfied with the outcome.

“We felt that the judge also understood how egregious this crime was,” Sullivan said.

Sowell’s attorney, Frank Louderback, did not return two phone calls seeking comment.

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