Should a few drinks affect the determination of rape?

April 25, 1993|By ROGER SIMON

"If I am going to send someone to jail for penetrating a woman who is asleep, they better build a hell of lot of jails," Baltimore County Circuit Judge Thomas J. Bollinger told me Friday.

Some explanation is in order:

On Thursday, Bollinger gave an unusually light sentence to a convicted rapist.

He gave Lawrence Allen Gillette, 44, the sentence of probation before judgment for raping an 18-year-old woman while she was unconscious.

This means that if Gillette follows the extensive conditions of his probation, his rape conviction will be erased.

While probation before judgment is a familiar sentence for first offenders who get speeding tickets, it is not common for convicted rapists.

And during the sentencing Bollinger made some comments that were interpreted by some as being insensitive or wrong, especially when he said that the victim had "facilitated" her own rape.

The phone lines to the talk shows lit up and so did the lines to Judge Bollinger's office. But the judge wants to make one thing clear:

He is not afraid of talk-show justice or media lynchings. He is sticking by what he said and did, and he is not sorry for any of it.

"I thought about this sentence for 2 1/2 months," Bollinger said. "The case was troublesome for me. There has been a change in the mores of society."

While a number of facts in the case were disputed during the trial, here are the facts that the prosecution presented and, apparently, the jury accepted in convicting Lawrence Gillette:

According to prosecutor Stephen Bailey, on the night of Aug. 28 some young women who worked for Gillette went to Gillette's apartment, where he served them vodka even though they were underage. The victim was not present, but had agreed to join the group later.

Gillette and the women then went to Poor Richard's, a Towson nightspot that was close to his apartment.

When the victim showed up, she was stopped at the door of the bar, but gained entry by saying that she was "with Larry."

She went inside, where Gillette bought her drinks.

"She is underage and the only reason she got served liquor was because of him," prosecutor Bailey said. "He is a 44-year-old man, surrounded at Poor Richard's by pretty young girls. It was an incredible ego trip for him."

The victim became drunk and Gillette and the others helped her toGillette's apartment.

"He watched her vomit into the toilet and then he watched her vomit in his bedroom," Bailey said.

Her friends helped the victim, who was fully clothed, into Gillette's bed.

Gillette and the others left the apartment, Gillette to return to the bar. Then Gillette returned to his apartment alone.

"He undressed the victim, he climbed on top of her, he engaged in sexual intercourse with her while she was unconscious," Bailey said. "I think the victim would agree she made some bad judgment calls, but this is not about people ingesting alcohol and going to bed together."

The victim regained consciousness during the rape, but passed out again and did not regain consciousness until the morning, when she found herself naked in Gillette's bed.

Her friends then took her to a hospital and the police were called.

At last week's sentencing, the defense attorney for Gillette called it a case of "date rape," which the prosecution heatedly disputed.

However, Judge Bollinger told me Friday: "It certainly was a date. They went out together. She gets sick and lays down in his bed. He goes back to the bar and when he gets back, she was in his bed. He gets in bed and he says they started to fondle and when she woke up, he was inside of her.

"And, under the law, I am supposed to treat this as second-degree rape! I am supposed to equate what he did with grabbing a stranger and choking her and forcing intercourse."

Bollinger said the law was flawed and that what Gillette did to the victim should be only a misdemeanor.

Is that what you tried to do in your sentencing? I asked the judge. Did you try to give a misdemeanor sentence for a felony offense?

"Basically, that is what I tried to do," Bollinger said. "I tried to do what I could so I could sleep at night."

MONDAY: Can a woman be responsible for her own rape?

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