Sex abuser didn't think confession would mean prosecution, lawyer says

May 13, 1992|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS -- A 54-year-old Taneytown farmer didn't believe that a confession to a state trooper detailing years of bizarre and brutal sexual abuse of his oldest daughter would be used to convict him, his attorney told the state's highest court yesterday.

"It was very clear [the man] believed he was not going to be prosecuted if he just told the truth," Judith S. Stainbrook, his Westminster attorney, told the Court of Appeals. "And the state knew it."

The man -- whose name is being withheld to protect the identity of his victim -- was convicted in March 1990 on six counts of bizarre and brutal sexual abuse charges that stretched from the time his oldest daughter was 8 until she turned 17 in 1977.

The abuse was revealed by the then-29-year-old daughter in June 1989 when she became worried for the safety of her 9-year-old niece, whom her father was to baby-sit, court records show.

The man was sentenced to 50 years in prison, after then-Circuit Judge Donald J. Gilmore called the crimes among the worst he had ever heard in his courtroom.

In her arguments yesterday, Stainbrook tried to persuade the seven-judge panel to reverse Gilmore by ruling that the man's confessions to a state trooper were involuntary and thus inadmissible.

The man, after a confrontation with his family, sought counseling. Because he did so, court records show, his family was not going to seek prosecution.

After a referral from the family's Baptist minister, the man went to Family Children's Service Center in Westminster, where he was required to sign a standard waiver form giving his counselor the right to share information about child abuse with the police.

Before signing the form, the man sought advice from Assistant State's Attorney Kathi Hill, a prosecutor who handles a large number of sex crime cases in Carroll.

Court records show that she told him over the phone, "Well, you should go and take your counseling now, that's the first thing. It's been a long time since this occurred, but I cannot give you advice because . . . I'm a prosecutor, I prosecute these types of cases."

After that conversation, the man signed the waiver form.

It is that bit of advice from Hill that Stainbrook argued formed a basis of involuntariness. She told the Court of Appeals that the man believed that he was being told to seek counseling. And since his family told him to either seek counseling or risk their testifying against him, he signed the waiver form, then underwent counseling.

A state trooper -- tipped off by the man's counselor -- interviewed him once in the counselor's office and once at the man's Taneytown farm.

He was arrested and charged, based in part on his conversation with the state trooper, two days later.

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