Emotional closure in 15-year-old rape case

CLEVELAND -- More than 15 years after a Cleveland woman was attacked and raped on her way home from a bar on the East Side, she came face to face in court with her accused attacker now turned minister.

The victim's case was filed away with hundreds of other cold cases until a DNA match recently linked 50-year-old Henry Masten to the crime.

Masten, who is now an associate minister in South Carolina, took a plea deal for a lesser felony charge of gross sexual imposition and was sentenced Wednesday.

"I still live through the nightmares, the pain, the heartache," testified the victim before Judge Michael Russo. "He violated me, he took things from me."

However, Masten claims the encounter that night fifteen years ago was consensual and testified that he has significantly changed his life in the years since.

"I'm not that type of person...I try to live my life where I really care for people," Masten sobbed in court. "I've embarrassed my church, I've embarrassed my wife, I've embarrassed my sister."

Before delivering his sentence, Judge Russo addressed Masten saying, "I can't imagine you ever counseling a member of your church to pick up a stranger who is highly intoxicated and to have sex or any type of sexual relationship with that person."

"No amount of prison time would have given (the victim) back her peace of mind," Judge Russo continued.

Although the state asked for prison time, Masten was sentenced to 24 months probation and will have to register for the next 10 years as a sex offender.

It may seem like a slap on the wrist but prosecutors explained the sentence falls right within range for the charge of gross sexual imposition.

If Masten had been charged and convicted of rape instead of gross sexual imposition a different set of penalties would have been on the table.

However, prosecutors also admit the sentencing laws for rape have actually lessened in recent years, since 1996 to be exact.

It is something both rape victims and advocates say they now want to see change.

"He's pled guilty to it and I'm the one suffering," said the victim.

Although this particular case predated the DNA task force, in just over a year the DNA Cold Case Initiative in Cuyahoga County has led to 85 indictments and 15 convictions.


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