Charges Dropped Against Man Who Served 20 Years for Rape

Bennie Starks served 20 years in prison

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Bennie Starks was convicted in 1986 of assaulting a 68-year-old woman and went to jail for 20 years. DNA evidence later excluded him from the crime. Christian Farr reports.

    Lake County prosecutors on Tuesday dropped sexual assault charges against a man accused in a decades-old Waukegan rape.

    "I'm feeling great," said Bennie Starks. "The fight is not over yet. We still have one more hurdle, but it's a great day."

    Starks, convicted in 1986 of assaulting a 68-year-old woman, had served 20 years of a 60-year sentence when DNA evidence was retrieved that excluded him from the crime.

    An appeals court ordered a new trial in 2006, and Starks was released on bond.

    The State's Attorney had previously threatened to retry Starks on the charges but on Tuesday dismissed the sexual assault counts.

    "That ends a two-decade plus saga of an innocent man wrongfully arrested, wrongfully tried, wrongfully convicted and wrongfully sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit," said Starks' attorney, Jed Stone.

    Starks still must deal with an aggravated battery charge the appeals court didn’t reverse. His attorneys maintain he is innocent of all charges. The State's Attorney would not comment on the aggravated battery count.

    Starks joins two other Lake County men -- Juan Rivera and Jerry Hobbs -- who've recently left prison after having charges dropped.