Wingate may avoid rape trial Alleged victim wants charges dropped

February 22, 1991|By Michael J. Clark | Michael J. Clark,Howard County Bureau of The Sun Alan Goldstein of The Sun's sports staff contributed to this article.

A Baltimore teen-ager told a Howard County judge yesterday that she was raped by former Dunbar High basketball star David Wingate last fall at a party in Columbia, but wants the charges dropped to avoid the pain and embarrassment of a trial.

State's Attorney William R. Hymes said he will review the evidence and decide Thursday whether to dismiss the charges against Wingate.

Wingate is charged with second-degree rape, a fourth-degree sexual offense and assault and battery based on the 17-year-old's complaints to police that she was sexually assaulted at his Columbia apartment Sept. 16 after getting drunk on beer and tequila. His trial is set for Aug. 5.

Prosecutors in San Antonio recently dropped similar charges filed by a 22-year-old Texas woman who claimed Wingate raped her in June 1990. A civil suit filed by the woman was settled out of court, but the terms were not disclosed.

Hymes said that before he decides whether to proceed with the case in Howard County, he must consider how the teen-ager would be affected by a forced trial and what impact dropping the charges might have on public safety.

Philip H. Armstrong, the defense attorney, asked that the Baltimore girl testify during a pre-trial hearing because he

claimed the state was withholding unspecified evidence that could help exonerate Wingate.

"I am loath to say my brothers were untruthful, but somebody is not accurately saying what is going on here and so much is at stake," Armstrong told Circuit Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. "We should find out."

Prosecutor Kate O'Donnell said the state was "discomfited that the victim is brought here by the defense counsel . . . She is not denying that the rape in fact did occur. She is showing some reluctance to be a witness."

On the stand, the young woman, speaking in a hushed voice, said she and her father met with prosecutors before the hearing and asked them to drop the charges.

Asked by Armstrong if there was a "misunderstanding" between her and Wingate when they had sexual intercourse at his apartment, the girl said, "Yes."

Under cross-examination by Hymes about whether a "misunderstanding" had existed before the sexual act, the girl said, "What do you mean misunderstanding? I don't know what he thought. I know what happened. I did not give permission."

Following up the issue, Armstrong said, "You don't know what David thought so there could have been a misunderstanding on his part, isn't that true?"

"Yes," the girl replied.

The girl's father took the stand to say he did not want his daughter to testify at a trial and "go through the ridicule. It is not worth it. I do not want to see my child suffer. I wish the situation had not occurred."

The girl's father told the judge that Wingate, who was not in the courtroom yesterday, had visited their home "to apologize for his inappropriate action."

He said he had gotten "to know David and I am very disappointed in him. I know he needed help. I knew him when he was not under the influence of alcohol. He was pretty nice. It's his word against hers."

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