Trial Of Accused Stun-gun 'Cruise Director' Begins This Week

July 28, 1991|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

The man prosecutors charge was the "cruise director" of a March 1990rape and stun-gun assault of an Essex woman in the back seat of a white limousine goes to trial Monday.

The defendant, Michael A. Bruno, 33, faces two trials during the next two weeks in Harford Circuit Court for 21 criminal charges related to allegations that he orchestrated an attack on the 25-year-old Baltimore County victim.

If convicted, the Glen Arm resident faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for two counts of first-degree rape.

Bruno's attorney has filed a plea of not criminally responsible by reason of insanity.

The first trial, expected to last one week before Judge Cypert O. Whitfill, will focus on the rape allegations. A jury was selected last week.

Following that trial, Bruno will stand trial before a new jury on charges that he allegedly tried to have the victim murdered to prevent her from testifying against him and two co-defendants.

The woman testified at previous trials that she was raped by three men in a white Lincoln limousine after they repeatedly shocked her with an electric stun gun.

Two other men -- Andre S. Whims, 27, of Phoenix, Baltimore County, and Robert W. Ambrose, 27, of Joppatowne --were acquitted during separate trials in Circuit Court.

Whims andAmbrose, as well as the victim, have been subpoenaed by the state totestify at the trial, according to court documents.

Assistant State's Attorney Mark W. Nelson contended during the Whims and Ambrose trials that Bruno was the "cruise director" of the events leading to the rape. The state charges that Bruno drove the limousine, bought hisfriends drinks at the numerous bars they patronized the night of thealleged attack and initiated the attack on the woman.

During the Whims and Ambrose trials, the victim testified that she agreed to go for a ride with the men in their limousine after she met them at a Baltimore show bar, where she performed as a dancer that night.

The group drove to Essex because some of the men wanted cocaine, but theynever got any drugs, the woman testified.

But Whims and Ambrose testified that the woman wanted the cocaine and agreed to have sex with them in exchange for the drug.

A fourth man, Steven Pearson of Fallston, testified in the Whims and Ambrose trials that he had sex with the woman, too. But the man was not mentioned in the victim's testimony and he has not been charged by police.

After the insanity plea was filed, Bruno underwent two evaluations at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup, but the tests showed no evidence of mental disorders, records say.

"(Bruno) is able to fully and accurately describe his legal situations and potential remedies," according to a June 13 letter by hospital administrators to the court. "He is well aware of his rights," the administrators said. "There is no indication that would lead us to doubt his competency."

Bruno is chargedby state police at Benson with two counts each of first-degree rape and first-degree sex offense, and one count each of second-degree rape, second-degree sex offense, sodomy, kidnapping, false imprisonment,assault with intent to rape, assault and battery, assault and a weapon charge.

Bruno also is charged with solicitation to commit murder after he allegedly suggested to Whims and Ambrose that they kill the woman to prevent her from going to the police. The other men talkedBruno out of harming the woman, according to a police report.

Bruno faces a second count of solicitation to commit murder, obstructionof justice and intimidation of a witness after he allegedly tried a second time to have the woman killed.

Police charge that Bruno offered an undercover state police investigator, whom Bruno thought was a hired killer, $1,500 to murder the woman on July 28, 1990.

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