Rape cold case that hinged on DNA leads to man's conviction

Posted: February 13, 2014

IT TOOK 16 years and a little bit of DNA for a Philadelphia jury yesterday to find Calvin Gadson guilty of raping a 15-year-old girl and robbing her and her boyfriend.

The couple - who are now married - testified last week that they were ambushed by two gunmen and forced into Reyburn Park in North Philadelphia just after midnight Feb. 1, 1998.

It was there that the gunmen took turns sexually assaulting the girl and holding her boyfriend at gunpoint, according to the couple, whom the Daily News is not identifying.

Although neither victim could identify the gunmen because they said they were told not to look at them, DNA that Gadson was required to submit to police after being arrested for robbery in the early 2000s eventually linked him to the 1998 assault.

Gadson, 37, of 43rd Street near Brown, in West Philadelphia, was formally arrested in January 2010.

His defense attorney, James Ephraim Lee, told the Common Pleas jury of seven men and five women that his client and the female victim had engaged in consensual sex.

Lee argued during the weeklong trial that the girl told police she had been raped because she needed an excuse for getting home late and missing her grandmother's curfew. Her boyfriend was not even in the park at the time of the encounter but he went along with her lie, said Lee, who said he plans to appeal.

He said reasonable doubt abounded in the case, including that only Gadson's DNA was recovered from the victim, though she and her husband testified that there were two rapists.

The jury, which began deliberating Monday morning, didn't buy that defense. Instead, it was the case put on by Assistant District Attorney Kelly Harrell that carried the day with the jurors.

She argued that Gadson and his still-at-large accomplice had committed a brutal, gunpoint stranger rape.

The jury convicted Gadson, a father of five, of rape, sexual assault, robbery, unlawful restraint and conspiracy.

Gadson, who was found not guilty of a handgun charge, faces a possible maximum state prison term of 30 to 60 years when he is sentenced May 16.

"I will probably be asking for something close to the maximum because that's something he deserves after the nature of this crime," Harrell said. "It's the stranger rape of a teenage girl at gunpoint while her significant other was held down."

Judge Giovanni O. Campbell revoked Gadson's bail and had him taken into custody.

On Twitter: @MensahDean

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