SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah)- Former Brighton High and USC football star Osa Chad Masina pleaded guilty to lesser charges in court Thursday morning.
Masina, 20, had been scheduled to stand trial next week on a first-degree felony charge of rape and two first-degree felony charges of forcible sodomy, stemming from allegations of a July sexual assault at a Cottonwood Heights house party.
Instead, Thursday, he entered a plea to three charges of sexual battery. All were Class A misdemeanors. When asked about he pleaded to the amended charges, Masina responded “guilty your honor.”
When asked if the victim had been notified and was aware of the plea deal, a representative with the Utah Crime Victims Legal Clinic spoke on her behalf.
“Unfortunately this is how the justice system does fail victims,” said Bethany Warr. “But we understand that because of the evidentiary issues in this case that we chose to go forward.”
Masina’s attorney Greg Skordas said with the original charges he faced a maximum sentence of life in prison and a life time on the sex offender registry.
“It was a risky case to go to trial on. I think he made a smart decision,” Skordas said. “There is always a risk when you go to trial that you could be convicted and have a felony on your record that would haunt you the rest of your life.”
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Deputy District Attorney Donna Kelly said they proposed the plea bargain after recent pre-trial decisions that didn’t go in their favor. Alleged pornographic pictures on Masina’s cell phone, expert witnesses and the exclusion of any testimony about a Snapchat video about the sexual encounter were all banned from trial.
“It’s the big picture of all the evidence,” said Kelly. “It’s not one particular thing that made us make this decision. We feel it’s a good resolution given the state of the evidence.”
The judge set a special hearing prior to sentencing in December. Kelly said the victim will make a statement about how this has affected her life.
“We want the victim to be heard,” said Kelly “This is not just a routine sexual battery sentencing that’s going to happen so we’ll have a lot to say at the sentencing.”
Warr also said the victim is looking forward to her right to tell her version of what happened that night.
“She hasn’t gotten a chance to tell her story,” said Warr. “She hasn’t had a chance to talk about why she did what she did.”
Warr said the plea bargain which includes lesser charges doesn’t change what happened to the young woman.
“The facts have not changed but the landscape of what the state was able to present has been changed,” said Warr. “Their case has been gutted essentially and that’s why we had to come to this resolution. It’s part of the ongoing victimization. Sexual assault cases by their very nature are very difficult. Victims have a hard time because often times they are the ones put on trial.”
But Skordas said the process worked and evidence tossed by the judge was proper.
“The judge heard our motions and listened carefully to what we were doing and made some very good rulings that were consistent with the law,” Skordas said. “There was no video. There was no Snapchat. It was a lie from the beginning period.”
Gregory Phillips, an attorney representing the Masina family was critical of Salt Lake District Attorney Sim Gill for filing the charges in the first place.
“What happened in there was a travesty resulting from District Attorney Sim Gill who cares about publicity, getting re-elected and not doing justice,” said Phillips.
He said Gill did not investigate the case thoroughly before bringing charges. As an example Phillips said their investigators learned of a text the victim sent a friend the night of the sexual encounter in Cottonwood Heights.
“We were the ones who found the text,” Phillips said. “In the text, the victims friend said ‘I want you to come to a party with me’ and she said ‘no, I’m going to a party with Osa’ and quote ‘I want some of Osa’s (expletive) tonight’ unquote.”
Phillips said the text showed the victim was the one pursuing Masina.
In response Sim Gill said new evidence was discovered as the case proceeded.
“The case was screened by SVU (special victims unit) team based on evidence that was presented at the time,” Gill said in a text to ABC4. “Cases evolve. We continue to gather info etc. as it comes in. Sometimes cases get stronger or weaker. That is the life of a case.”
As part of the plea bargain, the guilty plea to sexual battery will keep Masina off the sex offender registry. But Kelly said there is a condition that will keep Masina on a short leash.
“The defendant, shoud he get one more (sexual related) misdemeanor crime in the future, he will have to register as a sex offender,” said Kelly.
Sexual battery carries up to a year in jail and the three charges could run consecutive or concurrent. That will be up to the judge when Masina is sentenced December 5th.
Skordas said they will attempt to seek probation for Masina. He said it would allow him to rebuild his life. He said his football career is up in the air.
“I would like him to play ball again but in this climate, it’s difficult to have something like this on your record,” Skordas said. “He’d love to. It’s been a huge part of his life but it remains to be seen if he’ll ever pickup that part of his life again.”