Army sergeant acquitted of spousal rape charge WEST COUNTY -- Crofton * Odenton * Fort Meade * Gambrills

February 10, 1993|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

Jurors acquitted a 39-year-old Army sergeant yesterday of charges that he raped his wife last February in the midst of a long-standing domestic dispute in their Hanover home.

The verdict came after a three-day Circuit Court trial where the wife, a beautician from Newport News, Va., testified that a rape occurred after their relationship turned stormy in late 1991. At the time, she said, she had been hurt in a car accident, couldn't work and her husband began complaining about her spending habits.

"He threatened to kill me if I caused him any problems," she told jurors.

The wife filed charges in March 1992 after she told a counselor at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C., that she had been raped, five weeks after the alleged attack.

In three hours of testimony, the woman said the Feb. 20, 1992, incident was the culmination of a two-year marriage marked by several fights that prompted her to call police. In one fight in June 1991, her husband cut her on the face with a kitchen knife, she said.

But the jury was persuaded by defense arguments focusing on why she didn't report the rape for so long and why she never sought medical help, even though she had been telephoning an attorney days before the alleged incident because of the marital problems.

"I would remind you that there are no hospital records, no witnesses, no police reports from any of these prior incidents. There is simply nothing there," said defense attorney J. Michael Wachs.

The defendant testified that he took a pay cut to spend more time with his wife, sought out and went to a marriage counselor, moved to Maryland from Newport News to give the marriage "a fresh start" months before the alleged attack and was a veteran of Operation Desert Storm.

He acknowledged that they did argue about finances -- particularly when $200 and $300 phone bills went unpaid and the phone was disconnected. But he denied that he ever got violent. "I just feel like I had done everything, and she wanted too much," he said.

The victim testified that her husband would lock her out of the house and slap her if she didn't prepare dinner. She said he tried to enforce a military code of discipline in her life. "He would wake me up in the morning by saying things like, 'Hit the deck,' 'Wash the windows,' 'Scrub the floor,' things like that," the 46-year-old woman testified. She said the problems culminated on the night of Feb. 20, 1992, when the defendant came into the guest bedroom where she slept. She accused him of shoving a pillow in her face and raping her.

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