Thursday, October 29, 2009

Man sentenced to 15 years after rape of woman at party - victim dies of drug overdose in May

A man was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the sexual battery of a then 36 year old woman who later died of a drug overdose. James Cregger of New Port Richey, FL, was sentenced to the maximum for sexual battery by Pasco Circuit Judge Michael Andrews after 2 1/2 hours of jury deliberation yesterday. Cregger's "defense" was that his ex-wife made up the story to get back at him for deliquent child support payments.

The victim began the night of July 3, 2008, at her brother's New Port Richey apartment for a get-together. Cregger and his girlfriend were also at the party. The woman left after arguing with her boyfriend, telling her brother she was going to walk to a friend's house. Cregger had already left the party and gone to his nearby apartment.

Assistant State Attorney Chris Jensen said the woman met Cregger as she was walking to her friend's house and he was walking to a convenience store. Jensen said Cregger grabbed the victim, dragged her into the dark backyard of a house on Illinois Avenue and raped her on a beach chair. Cregger had lived at the house and knew its owner, Joseph Catania.

The victim eventually talked Cregger into letting her check on her child at home. She and Cregger were walking on Adams Street when [Deena] LaRossa's van approached.

LaRossa and her friends Stacy Davis and Betty Jo Tagerson, prosecution witnesses, saw a scared, barefoot, crying victim walking with Cregger early July 4, 2008. The women in the van stopped to talk to the victim, who whispered to LaRossa, "Please don't leave me. He just raped me." LaRossa helped the victim into the van.

Cregger testified that after an argument between the victim and her boyfriend, Cregger had consensual oral sex with the woman, who did so to get back at her boyfriend.

After the verdict, Cregger told Judge Andrews that he wasn't a rapist. "My only question through all of this has been: Why has my ex-wife and her ex-husband been making my life a living hell, and hunt me down and concoct this whole thing against me to put me away for 15 years?

Cregger's mother, Deborah Leder, said that she still believed her son was innocent. "I know deep down in my heart because I'm a Christian, and I know God knows that my son did not commit these hideous crimes."

"He's a good boy," The defendant's aunt, Judy Thomas said. She also promised that the family would fight for him.

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