Man cleared of rape after 20 years in prison

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Lake County prosecutors have dropped rape charges against a Chicago man who spent two decades in prison before DNA pointed away from him.

Assistant State's Attorney Jim Newman appeared at a brief hearing and dropped the sexual assault charges.

"He is a free man and he is not guilty," said Starks' lawyer, Jed Stone.

Bennie Starks, 52, was sentenced to 60 years in prison for the 1986 rape of a 69-year-old woman from Waukegan.

The woman claimed she was pulled into a ravine and raped. She identified Starks as her attacker. A dentist said bite marks on the victim matched Starks and his jacket was found at the scene.

Starks claimed his jacket was stolen on that night. Back in the early 2000s, Starks' attorneys said lab tests of the victim’s underwear picked up the DNA profile of another man. A vaginal swab also did not find DNA that matched Starks.  Starks was released on bond after an appeals court called for his retrial in 2006

The woman who was attacked died a few years ago. A judge ruled in January of 2011 that prosecutors could not use her past testimony again.

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