US & Canada

Illinois man has rape charge overturned after 24 years

William Carini seen head-on and in profile, in photos from Illinois department of corrections. Image copyright Illinois Dept of Corrections
Image caption Carini, 54, had served almost 25 years of a 26-year sentence

An Illinois man who spent nearly 25 years in prison for rape has had his conviction overturned.

William Carini, 54, was convicted in 1992 of a sexual assault against a woman who was sleeping in her car on the side of a road.

But authorities re-examining his case say tests show there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime.

Carini will continue to serve a life sentence however for the murder of his uncle and a young woman.

Carini's case is the seventh overturned conviction in Lake County since 2010. Four of those have been for murder and three for rape.

Lake County State Attorney, Michael Nerheim said the lack of forensic evidence against Carini was grounds for a new trial.

He said he would not seek a fresh trial however, in part because the victim did not want it. The conviction was then formally overturned in court this week.

Mother's campaign

Carini had served nearly 25 years of his 26-year sentence for the rape. The case remains unsolved.

His 73-year-old mother, Ruthe Wille, who was convicted of killing her husband, Carini's stepfather, in the 1970s, was instrumental in securing the review of her son's case.

She said she hoped that his murder case would now also be re-examined.

Carini was arrested in February 1985 in connection with a double murder, when his uncle and one of Carini's female friends were found dead in a garage he had rented.

At the time, police did not have enough evidence to charge him with murder. He was charged instead with concealing a homicide and sentenced to five years in prison.

After early release he resumed a normal life, until his wrongful conviction for rape in 1992.

It was not until 1999, while he was serving that sentence, that another witness came forward and he was formally charged with the murder of his uncle and friend.

'I didn't do the crime'

He was convicted on those charges and sentenced to life in prison, which he continues to serve.

Speaking to a reporter from the Chicago Tribune in July last year, Carini said he had been targeted as a suspect for the rape charge because of his past criminal record.

Despite his life sentence for murder, which would see him remain behind bars in any event, it was important to have the false charge quashed, he said.

"I didn't do the crime. So let's set the record straight," he told the newspaper. He also maintains that he is innocent of murder.

The Lake County State Attorney's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

More on this story