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Alleged serial rapist arrested after new unit begins to test decades-old rape kits

ATLANTA — A specialized unit has made the first arrest involving a new batch of thousands of rape test kits dating back decades.

Now, if the allegations are true, four victims who have lived with what happened to them since the 1980s now have a shot at justice.

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Channel 2′s Mark Winne spoke to Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis about the arrest of alleged serial rapist David Briney last month and how his arrest impacted his victims.

“When each of these rapes happened, these young women were in their 20s and 30s,” Willis said. “They’re obviously much older women now. They’re in their 50s like me. But these crimes stay with them. They don’t forget them.”

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A prosecutor said that on Feb. 27, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office Fugitive Unit arrested Briney after a months-long investigation by the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office and Atlanta Police investigators.

Briney’s arrest was one that had been coming for nearly four decades.

“There were a lot of tears (when we told the victims). There was a lot of overwhelmed feelings. For a lot of these victims they had never heard anything on their case for over 30 years,” Deputy District Attorney Julianna Peterson Eley said.

Briney has been charged with four rapes, two in 1986, one in 1985 or 1986 and one in 1987, along with a long list of related charges.

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“We are about vindicating victims,” Willis said. “I mean, these women were raped at gunpoint, brutally.”

Peterson-Eley said there are some 4,342 sexual assault kits from the 1980s and 1990s. The D.A.’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, which includes two embedded APD detectives, plans to test for DNA that can then be searched against a database of thousands of DNA profiles to see if suspects can be identified. Briney is the first arrest from that process.

“We’ve just begun testing in August and September,” Petersen-Eley said.

Lt. Butler with Atlanta police said that DNA gives you a starting point, but police still have to conduct an investigation.

“We still have to meet with the victims, which can sometimes be a struggle, and that speaks to some of the hard work that goes into the detectives to continue locating the victim and establishing what happened and going back so many years,” Butler said.

A March 1 emergency bond motion said Briney is currently incarcerated in the Fulton County Jail on felony warrants, which his appointed public defender says are barred by the statute of limitations, which was seven years in the 80s.

However, Deputy DA Peterson-Eley said the statute’s time limit was not in effect before.

“While his identity was unknown to us, the statute of limitations wasn’t running,” Peterson-Eley said.

In 2007, Briney pled guilty in what’s called an Alford Plea, meaning that he didn’t admit guilt, but it was in his interest to plead guilty to an aggravated assault charge reduced from rape based on a 1987 incident. Some related charges were dropped and he received two years commuted to time served.

Peterson-Eley said that if Briney is convicted on the new charges, the 61-year-old could face multiple life sentences.

A public defender spokesman sent a statement to Winne, reading.

“The Fulton County Public Defender’s Office represents Mr. Briney and is preparing a zealous, effective defense for the charges he is facing. We are continuing our investigation and will tirelessly advocate for Mr. Briney in court, but we must politely decline to make more public comments at this time.”