A Howard County judge sentenced a 29-year-old man to the maximum penalty of life plus 20 years yesterday for raping a Columbia woman and breaking into her home last July.
Kenneth W. Cole was convicted Feb. 9 of first-degree rape in the attack on a 30-year-old woman at herhome in Lake Placid Court July 7.
Circuit Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. imposed a life sentence for therape conviction, to be served consecutively with a 20-year-sentence for burglary.
Cole has maintained his innocence in the crime.
He has prior convictions for driving while intoxicated and disorderly conduct. When Cole was 13, a neighbor accused him of rape, but no legal action was taken on the matter, said his public defender, Carol Hanson.
Before the sentencing, Hanson criticized the police investigation of the rape.
"There was no presumption of innocence; there was a presumption of guilt," Hanson said. "My client is a poor, black man and was believed to be guilty from the minute the victim identified him out of a photo array."
Hanson repeated her concern, raised during Cole's trial, that police investigators failed to perform hairand fiber analysis on crime scene evidence.
Detective Frank Lilly, lead investigator on the case, testified at the trial that the victim immediately took a shower and washed her clothes and bedclothes after the rape, destroying any physical evidence.
During the trial, the woman testified that Cole surprised her from behind at her house at about 10:30 p.m. July 7.
Cole, armed with a knife, forced her inside the house. When Cole raised his knife above her, the woman testified, she deflected it with her hand and cut herself.
Cole then forced her upstairs into the master bedroom, where he raped her, the woman testified.
At his trial, Cole took the stand in his own defense and denied knowing the woman or raping her. He said he spent the entire day of July 7 with friends and relatives at his sister's house in Wilde Lake.