A Baltimore County man accused of raping an Essex woman and zapping her with an electric stun gun entered a plea agreement in Harford Circuit Court Wednesday, saying the state had enough evidence to convicthim.
Michael A. Bruno, 33, of Glen Arm, entered the agreement minutes before his trial was to begin on 18 charges related to the March29, 1990, incident.
In the agreement, reached after Bruno consulted his attorney and family, the defendant maintains his innocence but admits there is enough evidence against him for a conviction.
The agreement calls forBruno to receive a sentence of life in prison, with all but 20 yearssuspended, on a charge of first-degree rape, Assistant State's Attorney Mark W. Nelson said. Bruno will be permitted to pursue an appeal of the conviction based on several pretrial motions, Nelson said.
If the appeals court orders a new trial, the state can prosecute Bruno on the remaining 17 charges.
Before accepting the agreement, Circuit Judge Cypert O. Whitfill asked Bruno if he thought the agreementwas in his best interest.
Bruno responded, "Right now, it is, because all of the evidence against me is so damaging."
Bruno is to stand trial this week on charges that he tried to hire a hit man to kill the 25-year-old victim to prevent her from testifying against him and two co-defendants.
The agreement came on the heels of a pretrial hearing Monday in which Whitfill ruled that testimony about Bruno's alleged efforts to hire a hit man to kill the victim could be presented to the jury in the rape case.
An inmate serving at the countyDetention Center testified that Bruno asked him and other inmates intheir cellblock if they knew of a hired killer to murder the victim.
The inmate, who testified that he has worked as a confidential informant for the state police in previous cases, gave Bruno the telephone number of an undercover investigator posing as a hired killer.
The police investigator testified he provided the informant with a "covert" telephone number to give to Bruno.
"(He) was advised to bevery, very careful on the entrapment issue," the investigator testified. "He was not to put any ideas into Bruno's head."
Bruno calledthe investigator, believing he was a hired killer, and offered him $1,500 to murder the Essex woman on July 28, 1990, police said.
Theinvestigator, assigned to the state police's special assignment division, testified at the pretrial hearing that he has been one of the "murder-for-hire guys" for the state police. He said he has handled about 80 such cases since 1984.
The inmate was transferred to the Harford detention center after he assisted a state police investigationof an inmate at the Maryland House of Corrections in Jessup, the investigator testified.
"(The informant) was put in there to keep himon ice," the investigator testified. "The main concern was for his protection."
Bruno is the third of three men to stand trial in the alleged rape. The other defendants -- Andre S. Whims, 27, of Phoenix,Baltimore County, and Robert W. Ambrose, 27, of Joppatowne -- were acquitted during separate trials in Circuit Court.
The woman testified at the previous trials that she agreed to go for a ride with the men in their Lincoln limousine after meeting them at a Baltimore showbar where she performed as a dancer.
The group drove to Essex because some of the men wanted cocaine, but they never obtained any drugs, the woman testified. Whims and Ambrose testified that the woman wanted the cocaine and agreed to have sex with them in exchange for thedrugs.