Last charge dropped in Illinois rape case

Dec. 6, 2012 at 4:53 PM

WAUKEGAN, Ill., Dec. 6 (UPI) -- A new Illinois prosecutor has dropped the last charges against a man who spent 20 years in prison for a rape he did not commit.

Bernie Starks was released on bail in 2006 after DNA testing determined he was innocent of sexual assault. But Lake County State's Attorney Michael Waller refused to dismiss a charge that Starks battered the rape victim, a 69-year-old Waukegan woman, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Mike Nerheim, who became state's attorney when Waller retired last week, said Wednesday he will ask a judge Friday to dismiss the battery charge.

Starks would not have had to go back to prison if he had been convicted of battery after a new trial because of the time he has served. But he told the Tribune in a telephone interview from a relative's house in Wisconsin he never felt comfortable knowing he was still charged with a felony.

"It's been 26 years of hell, the emotional strain and the distress and the pain that I have," he said. "Today, it was kind of just lifted."

Starks' lawyer had tried to force a new trial but lost court rulings on the issue.

The victim is now dead. She identified Starks as the rapist.

Waller argued after Starks was cleared of the rape that the woman might have had consensual sex with another man before the assault.

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