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Ryerson University student suspected in sex assaults appears in court

A 20-year-old Ryerson University student facing multiple charges in two knife-point home-invasion sex attacks appeared briefly in court Thursday afternoon and was remanded in custody.

The hearing for Alaa Hejazi lasted about five minutes and a publication ban was imposed on the proceedings.

His next court date was set for Nov. 22, when his lawyers may seek a further appearance to expedite a request for bail.

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"He's holding up as well as can expected," his lawyer, Jordan Weisz, said outside court.

"This came as a complete shock to both my client and his family… to my knowledge, he has never been in trouble with the criminal justice system before."

Mr. Hejazi had excellent grades in school and could probably have got into any university he chose, Mr. Weisz said. "I've had an opportunity to meet with him at length and I can tell you that he presents as anything but a hardened criminal…He plays computer games, he helps around the house, he has two younger sisters he is very helpful to, he has, quite frankly, been a role model to them which is quite frankly why the family finds this so shocking.

"He is a complete stranger to the criminal justice system."

Accompanied by his mother, Mr. Hejazi surrendered to police early Wednesday. A few hours before, the sex crimes unit had distributed high-quality images of the chief suspect in the incident, boarding a bus in the area of the assaults.

Along with three supporters, his mother was also present in court Thursday. She wept as her handcuffed son was led into the courtroom, clad in a black open-necked shirt and jeans and looking pale.

On Monday morning, a man purporting to sell newspaper subscriptions rang the doorbell of a home in an upscale district of Avenue Road and Lawrence Avenue West.

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He then forced his way inside, pulled a knife and sexually assaulted two women aged 25 and 30, Det. Sgt. LeeAnn Papizewski told reporters.

She said the attack appeared to be random. One of the victims was treated in hospital.

The assailant was also injured in the melee, and when he fled, he took jewelry and cellphones, police said.

Mr. Hejazi faces a total of 11 charges, including forcible confinement, sexual assault with a weapon, threatening bodily harm and death, break and enter and possession of property obtained by crime.

"He's a bright kid, he was doing quite well in university," Mr. Weisz said.

Asked if police had arrested the wrong man, "I can't comment on the allegations," he replied.

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Mr. Hejazi's mother and two younger sisters "are not doing well and they're asking of the media that their privacy be respected," he added.

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At The Globe and Mail since 1982, in assorted manifestations, chiefly crime reporter, foreign correspondent and member of the Editorial Board, Tim is now retired. More

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