Man convicted of 1998 rape gets long prison sentence

Posted: August 17, 2014

It took 12 years before authorities matched Calvin Gadson's DNA with samples from a 1998 rape.

It took another four before he was found guilty, but on Friday, the 38-year-old West Philadelphia man got his punishment: 321/2 to 65 years in prison.

Gadson, the father of five children ages 6 to 17, maintains his innocence.

"I was always working, and I believe in Christ," Gadson, his voice cracking with emotion, told Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Giovanni O. Campbell. "All I'm asking is for a little leniency so I can see my children grow up a little more."

Gadson's lawyer, James Ephraim Lee, argued that Gadson should not be penalized with a heavy sentence for exercising his right to trial.

Campbell, however, said he believed state sentencing guidelines undervalued the seriousness of the rape and Gadson's criminal record, which includes 11 arrests, seven convictions, and five parole violations.

"The court has a duty, and I have a desire to protect the public from this kind of crime," Campbell told Gadson.

As he was led back into custody by sheriff's deputies, Gadson, a tall, muscular man in a well-tailored tan suit, turned to glance at his weeping sister and his girlfriend, who were in court with about 10 other supporters.

In February, a jury found Gadson guilty of rape in the 1998 assault on a 15-year-old girl in a North Philadelphia park.

He was arrested in 2010 in one of the first local cold cases revived through the Combined DNA Index System database, or CODIS.

Gadson's first arrest since a 1999 robbery conviction was for a 2008 assault, to which he pleaded guilty. Gadson's DNA, like that of all defendants, was sent to the FBI to add to CODIS.

City prosecutors, then reexamining DNA evidence from cold cases, were told Gadson's DNA matched that from the 1998 rape to a likelihood of 1 out of 10.56 billion from an unrelated African American population.

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

She testified that she and her friend were ordered to step 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, the victim said, one hit him in the head with a gun. She said the men took her to a wooded area and repeatedly raped her, telling her they would kill her if she looked at them.

Assistant District Attorney Kelly Harrell 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.

Harrell said the victim and her boyfriend have since married and have four children, but added, "This is something they deal with every single day."

Neither was present for Gadson's sentencing.

"They could barely get themselves in here to testify," Harrell added.

215-854-2985 @joeslobo

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