Rapist gets probation, judge's pity

April 23, 1993|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Staff Writer

A 44-year-old Towson man who raped an 18-year-old employee while she was unconscious after a bout of heavy drinking got probation before judgment and sympathy yesterday from a Baltimore County Circuit judge, who seemed to agree with the defense attorney that Maryland's rape law "stinks."

"If a woman can go out and get herself plastered and drunk, and he accepts what seems to be an invitation, and that [is] rape, then that law stinks," attorney Roland Walker told Judge Thomas J. Bollinger.

"And if he's drinking, he can't use that as a defense," the judge agreed, as the two launched into a criticism of the state's sexual offense laws.

Both the judge and the defense referred to the crime as a "date rape," which brought a sharp retort from Prosecutor Stephen Bailey, who argued vigorously for jail time.

The case was not "date rape," Mr. Bailey emphasized repeatedly, but an attack on an unconscious or helpless victim -- a form of second-degree rape, which carries a maximum 20-year sentence.

The defendant, Lawrence Allen Gillette, a former Loews movie theater manager, was convicted of second-degree rape on Jan. 24 by a jury that deliberated three hours after a two-day trial.

Calling the defense attorney's remarks "outrageous and offensive," Mr. Bailey said, "I think the statute is a fine statute, and given some of the comments we've heard in this courtroom, it is not only an appropriate, but a necessary statute."

Judge Bollinger said, "The statute is what it is. It attempts to change social attitudes, and to do that, I think that the sentence I impose will aid in this change in social attitudes."

Before sentencing, Mr. Gillette told the judge, "I've never harmed anyone," and, "I couldn't believe I was found guilty."

But he apologized to the victim, seated in the courtroom, who bit her lip and shook her head back and forth, then to his family and friends for his "poor judgment."

"I'm not going to associate with young women in the future," he said. He smiled as he accepted the offer of probation before judgment, which will erase the second-degree rape conviction from his record if he abides by Judge Bollinger's terms.

These include: home detention for six months, except for work, church, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, counseling, or food shopping; paying the costs of the victim's therapy; 18 months of supervised probation; $650 in court costs; attending AA meetings; and performing 200 hours of community service.

Mr. Gillette's acceptance forestalls appeals and will save the state money, the judge said, calling the case "a legal scholar's dream."

Noting that the court's pretrial services department had recommended a five- to 10-year prison sentence, Mr. Bailey pleaded for "some period of incarceration."

"I don't care whether it's 30 days, weekends -- but something -- because the defendant still to this day has not acknowledged that he did anything wrong," Mr. Bailey said.

Instead, the judge closely followed the recommendation of David E. Tracey of Family Advocacy Services Inc., who works with sex offenders and victims and acted as a private consultant hired by the defense to design an alternative for Mr. Gillette.

The rape occurred last Aug. 28, after the victim and some other young friends -- several of whom also worked for Mr. Gillette and frequently socialized with him -- had been drinking with Mr. lTC Gillette at Poor Richard's, a popular Towson nightspot, Mr. Bailey said.

He said the victim and her friends were admitted to the bar, even though they were underage, by saying they were "with Larry," as they often had before.

After the victim became drunk, Mr. Gillette and her friends

walked her to Mr. Gillette's apartment nearby, where she vomited before they put her, fully clothed, into Mr. Gillette's bed, where she vomited again.

While she was unconscious that night, Mr. Gillette raped her, Mr. Bailey said.

The victim said she awoke briefly during the attack but passed out again and did not awake again until morning, when she found herself naked in Mr. Gillette's bed. The next day friends took her to the hospital, where the staff called police.

Mr. Bailey agreed that the victim and her friends used poor judgment in using Mr. Gillette to get alcohol.

But he said, "Your honor, he was her employer. This is an 18-year-old just out of high school and a 44-year-old man."

Judge Bollinger interrupted the prosecutor to ask, "Do you think the jury would have convicted him if it were a 35-year-old woman?"

The defendant had entertained young women with drinks at his apartment and at Poor Richard's for years, Mr. Bailey said. "What he did was not an aberration: It was the culmination of many, many poor choices. This was his dream come true."

"The dream of a lot of males," the judge commented.

While the jury rejected Mr. Gillette's claim that the victim enticed him, the judge said she "facilitated" the rape. But the law makes that a crime, the judge said.

"I think heretofore among people in our society, men and women did not think [in terms of rape]. Now, beware, those of you who enter our bars, restaurants and nightclubs, partake of alcohol and engage in sexual intercourse. You do so at your own risk."

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