Bad judgment

April 26, 1993

Chalk up another one for the good old boys. Chalk one up for the all the sleazy, they-just-don't-get-it males who see little more than one basic use in women and who tell each other that a lot of rape victims were just "asking for it anyway."

The good old boys must have been cheering last week when Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Thomas J. Bollinger made the outrageous decision to give probation before judgment to a 44-year-old man convicted for the second-degree rape of an unconscious 18-year-old woman.

Teen-agers who get drunk and drive Dad's car up a tree get PBJ. Not convicted rapists. At the least, a suspended sentence or weekend incarceration would have ensured that the crime not be erased from the man's record. But probation before judgment? It's as if the rape never happened.

Judge Bollinger's light rap on the man's wrist -- after the court's pre-trial services department had recommended a five- to 10-year-sentence -- is bad enough. Worse yet is the way the judge bantered with the defense attorney about Maryland's rape law, which, they agreed, "stinks."

The two men seemed to bemoan the fact that a woman can get drunk with a man and then holler "Rape!" when he forces himself on her. This tired, wrong-headed argument says a woman under the influence shouldn't be allowed to use her intoxicated state as a reason for not consenting to sex. However, there was a huge difference in this case: The woman couldn't give her consent to have sex even if she had wanted to, because she had passed out before the man attacked her.

Then there was the judge's prize comment that the situation detailed in the case constituted "the dream of a lot of males." Oh, really? It's the dream of a lot of men to have sex with an unconscious young woman who has just been nauseated? The judge should speak for himself on that one.

To be sure, the young woman exhibited bad judgment in this episode. Her friends also made a mistake in leaving her to sleep off her sickness in the man's bed. Still, these facts in no way mitigate the awful crime that was committed.

This was an ugly case from start to finish, from the act of the rape right through the sentencing. Judge Bollinger's remarks were especially shocking in light of his long, distinguished legal career in the Baltimore area. Did he just have a bad day? Or does he have a less than judicious attitude where the state's rape law is concerned? The sooner he explains, the better.

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