VALPARAISO — Just moments before sentencing a 39-year-old South Haven man to 38 years for rape, Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper looked out over the courtroom and lauded the victim for her strength in following through with the painful criminal case.

"I respect strong women a lot," she said Wednesday morning.

As Harper told the woman — who had testified during last month's trial — that she had done everything right, the woman broke down crying.

"They can be hard to come by," the judge said of strong women, "but she's near the top of the mountain."

James Braden, by contrast, showed no emotion as the judge gave him the near-maximum prison term for raping the woman at gunpoint in a portable toilet on April 1, 2017, at Imagination Glen Park in Portage.

Harper called the offense a "heinous criminal act."

"This victim feared for her life on the day of the crime," Harper said. "Her children still have fear."

The victim in the case, who was 27 at the time of the incident in question, told jurors during the trial that Braden forced his way into the toilet she was using shortly before 1 p.m.

She said Braden held a gun while he fondled her, forced her to perform a sex act and then sought more sexual activity but was unable to perform.

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The woman said she fled the toilet when she had the opportunity.

Braden admitted during the trial he was sexually involved with the woman in the toilet on the day in question, but said it was part of a drug deal gone bad and not rape as she claims.

The victim told the judge Wednesday she suffers from anxiety and post-traumatic stress following the rape and said she has had flashbacks on each of the 970 days since the attack.

"It angers me this man thought he had that right," she said of the premeditated rape.

Porter County Prosecutor Gary Germann, who tried the case, called Wednesday for the maximum 40-year sentence.

"Freedom for this defendant means another victim," he said.

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Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.