Annapolis real estate broker Gary Hart was indicted on a charge of first-degree rape yesterday by a county grand jury.
Hart, 39, had been charged with second-degree rape and false imprisonment after he turned himself in to police investigators Dec. 18. But county State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee said a review of the case showed evidence of "aggravating circumstances" -- an element that distinguishes first-degree rape from second-degree.
Weathersbee said evidence shows the woman who accused Hart of rape may have been choked.
Hart, who remains free on his own recognizance, was arrested after a two-month investigation. Police have said the incident began when Hart brought a 33-year-old woman to his home in the 3700 block Thomas Point Road after the two had been out on a dinner date.
The woman told police Hart raped her at about 4 a.m. Oct. 16 in the bedroom of his home, holding her down with his arms across her neck, making it difficult to breathe, court records show.
The woman told police Hart chased her around the house and shouted threats at her, but she was eventually able to leave. The woman called police later that day, and police filed a complaint against Hart Nov.2.
Hart, who twice was charged -- but never convicted -- of abusive behavior toward his now-estranged wife, has denied the woman's allegations. He has said he had sex with the woman that night, but said the woman became upset because he refused to let her accompany him ona trip to Florida.
Hart, who started in the real estate business in 1974, founded Gary Hart & Associates Ltd., a well-known county real estate brokerage in the county.
The former general sales managerand most of the sales agents for the company recently formed a new real estate agency operating as an affiliate of the Coldwell Banker network. Hart has said he will have no role with that new company.
Hart has said that Gary Hart & Associates will continue to exist and he will remain its broker. But, he said, he is removing himself from real estate sales and will concentrate on interests he owns, such as a mortgage company, title company and development company.
Hart refused to say whether the criminal charges were linked to the formationof the new company. He said negotiations leading to the change beganin September.
Mike Johnson, a franchise development director for Coldwell Banker's northeast region, confirmed the talks began in September. He said Coldwell Banker representatives initially were concerned about the allegations surrounding Hart, but investigated the matter and decided to proceed with the affiliation.