Defense Attacks Alleged Rape Victim's Personal Life

Hart's Lawyers Say Woman Is Disturbed, Ex-prostitute

Trial To Begin Tomorrow

June 16, 1991|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

The rape trial of real estate broker Gary Hart doesn't start until tomorrow, but defense lawyers already have launched a blistering attack on the alleged victim's personal life.

In arguments before the judge last week, Hart's lawyers presented the alleged victim as a mentally disturbed woman who has a "confused sexual identity" and an "underlying hatred and distrust of men."

Lawyers also brought up allegations that the woman once worked asa prostitute for a College Park escort service, had threatened to harm a former boyfriend and had tried to kill herself twice as a teen-ager.

One of Hart's lawyers, Arnold Weiner -- a Baltimore attorney who defended former Gov. Marvin Mandel -- said he needs to include the personal information about the woman to destroy her credibility.

But Assistant State's Attorney William C. Mulford II said defense lawyers are merely trying to persuade the woman not to testify.

"It's almost offensive that today we are still blaming the victim for theactions of a defendant, especially in a rape case," he said in courtWednesday.

Hart was indicted in January on first-degree rape charges after a 33-year-old woman told police she was attacked in Hart's home in the 3700 block of Thomas Point Road on Oct. 16.

The woman told police Hart held her down in his bedroom with his arms across her neck, making it difficult to breathe, court records show. She also told police Hart chased her around the house and shouted threats at her, but she eventually was able to leave.

Hart, who founded a realestate firm in 1974 that bears his name, has said he had sex with the woman that night, but it was consentual. He said the woman got upset because he refused to let her accompany him on a trip to Florida.

The trial, expected to last more than a week in Circuit Court in Annapolis, has raised the issue of how far defense attorneys can go in attacking the credibility of alleged rape victims. The issue is not whether they can bring up the woman's mental condition, but how much of her background can be used to try to render her testimony unreliable.

In this case, the prosecution says Hart's lawyers are crossing the line.

But Weiner says doctors have found no evidence that the woman was raped or assaulted. The lawyer was in court Wednesday trying to obtain detailed psychiatric reports on the victim.

Those reports include a two-week stay at the Psychiatric Institute of Montgomery County in April 1987 -- where Weiner said the victim was diagnosed as suffering from a borderline personality disorder -- and visits to at least three Annapolis psychiatrists in 1988, 1989 and 1990.

Weiner said the illness gave the woman "an altered and impaired sense ofreality," causing her to be manipulative and show intense anger and vindictiveness.

"It causes her to seek out the favor of men and the attention of men," Weiner said. "But all the while that she gets the attention she craves, her underlying hatred explodes."

He said the woman's hostile tendencies surface when she is at the end of a relationship with a man. He said Hart had started to break off his relationship with her a week before the alleged rape.

Circuit Judge H. Chester Goudy ruled that Hart's lawyers could see the detailed psychiatric reports. He said he would rule on how much could be presented to the jury when the issue is raised during trial.

But the judge turned down a request by Weiner that the victim undergo a psychiatric evaluation and refused to allow any evidence about the woman being a prostitute to be entered in open court.

Weiner filed a motion to allow that evidence before a jury, saying it was not protected by the Rape Shield Law -- which prevents defense attorneys from questioning alleged rape victims about their sexual history. He argued that prostitution was a commercial and not private venture.

Weiner said he had evidence the woman worked for an escort service called Executive Enterprises in the mid-1980s out of a College Park motel.

"I'm just really offended beyond belief," Mulford said. "For counsel to stand here and say, 'I have a witness who has knowledge.' Where are the names? Where are the dates? Where's the proof?

"This is nothing but a character assassination. It's offensive, and it's degrading, and it'ssimply mudslinging. A line just has to be drawn. If this is what is going to happen, we might as well not even bother at this point."

In defending his tactics, Weiner told the judge he must present details of the psychiatric reports and past relationships to the jury to show a pattern of behavior that would lead the woman to file a false accusation.

Prosecutor Mulford disagreed strongly, saying Weiner was trying to get the jury to hear inadmissible evidence by disguising it as part of psychiatric history.

"The counsel seems to be tryingto get things in the back door that he may not be able to get in through the front door," said Mulford. He said lying about her marriage or trying to commit suicide should not be used to convince jurors thewoman can't be trusted to tell the truth.

"If we characterize it as a psychiatric illness, it stays in," Mulford said. "If we characterize it for what really is, a puffed-up resume, it doesn't show.

"What the counsel is really trying to do is . . . have the court forcethe state to force this witness to allow them to intrude into her personal life. That possibly is what offends me the most."

Mulford, in court documents, said the state has witnesses who will say they heard Hart "admit that the sexual relations were not consentual but were, in fact, of a forced and unconsentual nature."

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