Guilty verdict in North Phila. cold-case rape

Posted: February 13, 2014

For most of the last decade, his lawyer said, Calvin Gadson steered clear of the criminal justice system, living in West Philadelphia and helping support his five children.

On Tuesday, however, Gadson's past caught up to him when a Common Pleas Court jury found him guilty of a 1998 rape to which he was linked four years ago by a federal DNA database.

Gadson, 37, a tall, muscular man wearing a well-tailored tan suit, seemed surprised when the jury of seven men and five women found him guilty of rape after two days of deliberations. His lawyer had argued that Gadson, who is now married, had a consensual sexual encounter with a then-15-year-old girl.

After the jury was excused, defense attorney James Ephraim Lee moved for acquittal despite the verdict. Lee argued that the jury acquitted Gadson of a gun charge, finding that he did not have a gun during the rape. Without a gun, Lee said, there was no way to prove the incident was not consensual.

"I understand your motion, and that's one way of looking at it, but there are others," Judge Giovanni O. Campbell said in denying Lee's motion.

Over Lee's objection, Campbell granted Assistant District Attorney Kelly Harrell's motion to revoke Gadson's $150,000 bail.

"I'm sorry, but his exposure is substantial," Campbell said before deputies took Gadson into custody.

Campbell set sentencing for May 16, and Harrell estimated that Gadson faces 30 to 60 years in prison on the charges on which the jury found him guilty: rape, sexual assault, robbery, unlawful restraint, and conspiracy.

Gadson's arrest in the 1998 rape came as a result of a 2008 assault to which he pleaded guilty. After that crime, Gadson's DNA, like that of all defendants, was sent to the FBI to add to the Combined DNA Index System database (CODIS).

City prosecutors then reexamining DNA evidence from cold cases were told Gadson's DNA matched that from the 1998 rape - with a likelihood that it did not match of only one chance in 10.56 billion - and police made an arrest.

The victim, now 31, testified that on Feb. 1, 1998, she and her boyfriend were walking home around 11:30 p.m. near Garnet Street and Sedgley Avenue in North Philadelphia when they were accosted by an armed man.

She testified that she and her boyfriend were ordered to go through a hole in the fence surrounding Reyburn Park, where a second gunman appeared and ordered them to empty their pockets.

When her boyfriend began cursing at the robbers, one hit him in the head with a gun, she said. She was then taken to a wooded area, where she was raped by both men, who said they would kill her if she looked at them.

Harrell, the prosecutor, said that the victim was not able to identify Gadson or the other assailant and that the DNA evidence from the second man has not matched any sample in the CODIS database.

215-854-2985 @joeslobo

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