Victim recants, but man is convicted

April 20, 1993|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

The state's key witness -- the alleged victim -- in a battery case took the stand yesterday and disputed that her former boyfriend slammed her against a wall and threatened her with a knife.

"He didn't swing a knife at me," Diane R. Christ yelled at Assistant State's Attorney Eileen McInerney.

"So what you wrote here is incorrect?" the prosecutor angrily responded, pointing to a signed statement in which Ms. Christ said Irvin Dallas Sims assaulted her in a drunken rage on Aug. 19.

"That statement could be wrong. I was at my wits' end. A relationship was breaking up. Everything was happening so fast."

The victim's changing story notwithstanding, Carroll Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. convicted the defendant of battery. He gave Sims, 43, of Westminster six months in the Carroll County Detention Center and suspended all but three days of the sentence.

The Sims case is the second in less than a week in which Carroll prosecutors pursued battery charges against a defendant even though the alleged victim recanted her story on the stand. On Friday, a Carroll County jury acquitted Ernie Reed, 25, of Westminster on one count of battery after his alleged victim refuted her sworn criminal complaint.

But, unlike that trial, prosecutors in yesterday's case had an eyewitness to the encounter between Sims and Ms. Christ. That made the difference, Ms. McInerney said.

"Even if she's not going to come forward, we have an obligation to protect her," the prosecutor said yesterday after the conviction. "If we don't go forward, something serious could happen the next time. And we had an independent witness to corroborate Ms. Christ's statements."

In Friday's case, Assistant State's Attorney Kathi Hill did not have the luxury of putting an eyewitness on the stand.

So why prosecute a crime in which the victim denies her own allegations?

"This crime is not just her own, not just against her, but against society," Ms. McInerney said. "We have an obligation to not just protect her, but to protect society."

On Aug. 19, Sims drove up to Ms. Christ, who was standing outside of a house on South Center Street, court records show. Raymond T. Dorsey, the owner of the house, testified that he saw Sims throw Ms. Christ against the wall several times.

Westminster Police Officer Michael A. Gromley testified yesterday that Ms. Christ was nervous, confused and and terrified when she told him about the incident. According to the officer's report, "Diane Christ advised that she was . . . grabbed by Sims and thrown into the wall. He reached behind his back and produced a bread knife and started swinging it back and forth at Christ."

That report is what Ms. Christ denied on the stand yesterday. Her performance angered both Ms. McInerney and Assistant Public Defender Judson K. Larrimore, who represented Sims.

Judge Beck even warned Ms. Christ of her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. He told her that if she lied under oath she could be convicted of perjury and sent to jail, and if what she told Officer Gromley wasn't the truth, she could be jailed for making a false statement.

Ms. Christ declined to answer questions after the judge's warning.

After the officer and the witness testified, Ms. McInerney concluded her case. Mr. Larrimore asked the judge to drop three of the four charges against his client. Without comment, Judge Beck dropped charges of carrying a deadly weapon, reckless endangerment and disorderly public intoxication.

But the judge said he found Mr. Sims "guilty beyond all reasonable doubt of assault and battery."

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