Saying it was the "worst and the saddest" case of rape and incest he had seen in his 28 years in the legal profession, a Baltimore Circuit Court judge today sentenced a 43-year-old Baltimore woman to 15 years in prison for aiding her husband in the rape of their three daughters.
Rejecting a tearful plea from the defendant and letters from the victims asking for leniency for their mother, Judge Kenneth Lavon Johnson said he "agonized" over the sentence.
"I know this will hurt you and I'm sorry for that," the judge told the three young women, who looked on impassively.
"The children in this case have been so profoundly, adversely affected . . . that there is little likelihood that they will ever completely recover," Johnson said.
The judge called the victims' father "vile and depraved," but said they were more unfortunate to have a mother "they could not run to."
The mother, described by her lawyer as a deeply religious woman, pleaded guilty Oct. 29 to three counts of first-degree rape and three counts of sexual child abuse. Prosecutors charged that she aided and abetted in the repeated rapes of the three girls over a nine-year period -- causing numerous pregnancies that ended in abortions.
The father also pleaded guilty last month to the same counts and agreed to three consecutive life sentences. He must serve 30 years under the plea bargain. He will be sentenced tomorrow.
The mother would bring the girls to their father, prosecutors said. Sometimes she pretended to be asleep or turned her back as the girls screamed and tried to fight him off.
"I'm extremely sorry and deeply regret my actions or my non-actions," the mother said today. "I apologize to my girls and to my younger children for letting them down."
Barely audible, she said she had brought "shame and disgrace" to her family.
"I just pray that I can make it up . . . before the Lord takes them [her children] away from me," she added.
Earlier, prosecutor Wanda Keyes Robinson reminded the judge of letters written to him by the victims -- now ages 17, 20 and 23. In the letters, they asked for leniency for their mother and supervised visits with her. The judge granted the latter.
Robinson said the mother was more concerned about her marriage than about her daughters. "She was at that time eager to make her marriage work . . . because she trusted the co-defendant," she said.
"It is she, as she says in her own words, who chose to close her eyes," Robinson said.
Defense lawyer Bridget D. Shepherd asked for fewer than 15 years. She said her client's crime was one of omission. "It was the co-defendant who obtained the sexual gratification," she said.
Shepherd said the defendant's own daughters, in their letters to the judge, acknowledged that their mother was "submissive" to her husband. She said her client was a "very devout Muslim" who accepted the man as the head of the household.
"She was using her religion as a crutch to assist her through this," Shepherd said. The defendant interpreted what was happening as "God's trial" of the family.