A Fort Washington man convicted of raping a mentally disabled woman in a building at Fort Belvoir where they both worked as custodians was sentenced yesterday to 17 1/2 years in prison.

Grant Veney Lee Jr., 44, and his victim were employed by the Chimes, a Baltimore agency that places and supervises teams of disabled people in custodial jobs. Lee, who has a long criminal record, qualified for the program because he is HIV-positive. The 35-year-old victim has cerebral palsy, and her lawyer said she has the mental capacity of a 5-year-old.

On Dec. 21, while both were out of sight of supervisors, Lee took the woman, a Fairfax County resident, into a janitorial closet at the Defense Logistics Agency and raped her, according to testimony at Lee's August trial.

Lee proclaimed his innocence again at yesterday's sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, saying, "I know the difference between right and wrong. . . . I did not commit this crime." His attorney, Alan Yamamoto, said Lee will appeal the conviction.

Law enforcement officials said the victim tested negative for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

The Washington Post is not naming the woman because of its policy not to identify victims of sexual assaults.

The incident raises troubling questions about the Chimes program and the Defense Department's security efforts, said David Goewey, an attorney for the victim's family. Lee had been convicted of aggravated assault, burglary and other offenses yet apparently passed a federal background check, court records show.

When the woman reported the rape to her supervisors, they questioned her for more than four hours before notifying police and her mother, according to court testimony.

"It's appalling what happened to her, and her treatment by her supervisors after the incident was equally appalling," Goewey said. The victim "was working and was happy. Now she doesn't work, and she is afraid to leave the house. . . . Nobody can give [her] back her trust and innocence."

At yesterday's hearing, she burst into loud sobs and had to be helped from the courtroom by her mother.

The Chimes attorney, Howard Kurman, said the company relied on the government's background check, and "we didn't know there was a problem with this employee." As for the four-hour questioning, he said, the victim's supervisors "called the authorities as soon as they could. It was a very serious allegation."

A Defense Logistics Agency spokesman said he did not have enough information about the case to comment.

The Chimes also provides custodial services at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Bolling Air Force Base and the Ariel Rios Federal Building in the District.

Lee's first trial ended in a hung jury this summer after the woman agreed during cross-examination with a defense suggestion that she had invented the attack. In the second trial, a psychiatrist testified that the woman was incapable of making up such a detailed story.

Lee's brother, Sandy Lee, 49, said U.S. District Judge Albert V. Bryan Jr. should not have allowed the psychiatrist to testify. "Even a mentally disabled person can lie," he said. "This type of conduct is just not in Grant's nature."