For more than a decade, their rape kits sat untested on a shelf.
But on Monday, two women who accused James Andrew Works, 49, of kidnapping and raping them for hours at gunpoint in 2010 said they no longer have to live in fear. Works was sentenced to 32½ years in prison after a Hennepin County jury found him guilty of all charges following a two-week trial. It's the first conviction resulting from a new initiative to tackle a backlog of untested sexual assault forensic exams in Minneapolis.
"I can just let you know in this case justice was delayed, you know, but it wasn't denied," District Judge William Koch said to Works at his sentencing Monday morning.
Both women addressed Koch at Works' sentencing, nearly 13 years after he approached them and forced them to a secluded area of a park to rape them. He threatened to shoot if they screamed or called for help.
"Before this morning I didn't know if I wanted to say anything. I didn't want to give him any more of my attention, any more of my energy," one woman said, clutching a tissue. "But when I got here, I just felt like I needed to let him know. ... Close to 13 years ago, he made me a victim but I am determined to not let him have the final say in where my life ends."
The other woman said she was dehumanized by Works. But she said she is strong, independent and ambitious, recently graduating as valedictorian with a 4.0 grade point average and now mentoring young girls.
Koch congratulated her on an impressive academic achievement after she said she would walk out of the courtroom that morning with her confidence back.
"It doesn't matter where you came from, it doesn't matter what happened to you," she said. "Bend, don't break."
In a 20-minute tirade, Works denied the charges — two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of kidnapping — and said his only crime was not paying the women, who he said were escorts.
"If it takes the rest of my life with this appeal to clear my name, that's fine," Works said.
Koch handed down a sentence four years shy of the maximum punishment allowed under law.
Works' attorney, Lindsey Van Beek, wanted sentences for each count to be served concurrently. But prosecutors asked for consecutive sentences, which means Works likely will spend much of the rest of his life in prison.
Koch followed the state's recommendation for consecutive sentencing. He said that Works can't attribute his desire for control, sense of entitlement and superiority to his military upbringing and brief military service.
As someone who served in the military, Koch said it doesn't teach people such attitudes. He told Works that his outlook is fundamentally flawed and criminal. "To try to rationalize it in your own mind is not helpful," he said.
Koch said it wasn't a lack of reporting that delayed this case, it was a lack of testing. "This case was waiting for two sexual assault kits to be tested. That's all that was needed to identify you as the person involved June 26, 2010," he said.
He said Works admitted on the stand during his testimony that he had sex with both women but that it was consensual. But Koch said that's not what Works told investigators when they reopened the case in 2021.
Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Christina Warren said this was more egregious than the average first-degree criminal sexual conduct case because it involved a gun and multiple victims subjected to hours of abuse.
"He counted on them to not be believed, to be too afraid to go to the police," Warren said.
Works' trial in March was the first born out of the Minneapolis Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, a partnership between the Hennepin County Attorney's Office, Minneapolis Police Department, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and Sexual Violence Center to process untested rape kits.
Since being launched in 2020, four previously unsolved cases have been charged. Another trial from the initiative is slated for the end of May, and another suspect recently pled guilty.
Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty said in a press release that violent sex offenders are on notice.
"The courageous victim survivors in this case had to live for too long knowing the person responsible for their pain had not been held accountable," she said.
Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O'Hara and BCA Superintendent Drew Evans praised the new partnership, while Sexual Violence Center Executive Director Kenosha Davenport said that sexual assault kits need to be processed in a timely manner.
"We believe justice delayed is justice denied," Davenport said.