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Associated Press Writer

A man accused of choking an 85-year-old woman in an elevator and stealing her cane and cash was arrested after a detective saw the surveillance video and recognized him from a similar assault, police said Thursday.
The Aug. 14 mugging of Lillian France was the latest in a spate of assaults in Brooklyn this summer in which a man attacked and robbed victims from behind in stairwells, elevators and lobbies. At least five, including France, were choked.
Cornelius Abson, 36, was arrested on robbery charges Wednesday in the attack on France and four others involving victims in their late 60s and 70s. Abson made statements implicating himself in the robbery of France, police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.
Abson was living at a halfway house in Brooklyn and was in a work-release program in Manhattan after being released from prison in May, police said. There was no phone number listed at the address provided by police and authorities weren't sure whether he had an attorney.
The footage from last week's attack shows a man trailing France into a building elevator and pouncing on her from behind as she is about to get off. He grabs her bag and cane and takes off down the hall. Police say he made off with $900 that France had just withdrawn from a bank to give to her grandnieces.
The break in the case came when longtime Brooklyn detective Matthew Walker saw the surveillance footage on the news and recognized the attacker. Walker had arrested Abson six years ago in a similar mugging for which Abson was convicted and served five years in prison. He said he recognized Abson from the tape.
"It shows that veteran detectives have long memories," Kelly said. "This was outstanding work."
Detective Mary Sheehan, who questioned Abson, said he wrote an apology to France, saying he was a drug addict and "the person that did this is not necessarily the person that he is."
Abson had been arrested 11 times on charges of robbery, grand larceny and criminal mischief and was in prison at least twice.
France remained hospitalized Thursday with high blood pressure.

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