SALT LAKE CITY -- A once-rising college football star has struck a plea deal on rape charges.
Osa Masina pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual battery, a class A misdemeanor. In exchange, prosecutors dropped three counts of first-degree felony rape and forcible sodomy. Masina will not face prison time or be forced to register as a sex offender, but he could get up to three years in jail when he is sentenced in December.
"No comment," Masina said to FOX 13 as he left the courtroom.
Masina was a star player at Brighton High and on University of Southern California's football team when he was accused of raping a 19-year-old woman in his college dorm room, and again at a party in Cottonwood Heights in July.
But prosecutors said they were forced to offer a deal when the judge ruled that some evidence and testimony would not be allowed.
"We believe this is an appropriate resolution given our evidentiary concerns," said deputy Salt Lake County District Attorney Donna Kelly.
Masina's attorney, Greg Skordas, said it was a difficult decision for his client to accept the deal.
"I think we all wanted to go to trial so he could be acquitted. That was not done lightly," he told reporters.
The victim was not in court. Her attorney, Bethany Warr, told the judge she supported the plea deal but believed the justice system failed the woman.
"The facts of the case have not changed. My client was raped and sodomized and it was done very violently," she told reporters outside of court. "What has changed is the landscape of the case, because decisions have been made that have made it impossible for the state to properly assert what happened."
Masina family attorney Gregory Phillips blasted District Attorney Sim Gill for even bringing charges, accusing him of targeting a football player for publicity.
"We all know one of the most dangerous places in Salt Lake City is between Sim Gill and a TV camera," Phillips said. "There was a rush to judgment in this case. Sim Gill didn’t investigate the facts of this case before he brought inflammatory charges."
Asked why Masina had just pleaded guilty if he believed it was not a fair prosecution, Phillips suggested he didn't have much choice.
"That’s the problem with rape allegations. Once they’re made, even if they’re not true, you can never live them down," Phillips said.
At sentencing, the victim will testify. Prosecutors said they have not yet decided if they will ask for jail. Skordas said he would like to see probation and a chance for Masina to pursue his education.
"I’d like to see him be able to play ball somewhere but in today’s climate it’s certainly difficult when you have a conviction for something like this," he said.