Judge Bollinger's Poor Judgment

April 27, 1993

It's tough to decide what was more outrageous about the events last Thursday in the courtroom of Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Thomas J. Bollinger:

Was it more appalling that Judge Bollinger gave probation before judgment to a 44-year-old man convicted for the second-degree rape of an unconscious 18-year-old woman? Or that the judge expressed sympathy for the defendant and agreed with the defense attorney that Maryland's rape law "stinks"?

As defined in the Annotated Code of Maryland, second-degree rape occurs when a person sexually forces himself or herself on another person who is "mentally defective, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless." That includes someone who is drunk or, as with the young woman in this case, has passed out after being drunk.

Yet the defense attorney and the judge appeared to decry the fact that a woman can get drunk with a man and then holler "Rape!" when he tries to have sex with her against her will. This is the old, misguided argument that says a woman under the influence shouldn't be allowed to use her intoxicated state as a reason for not consenting to sex.

Notwithstanding the Neanderthal thinking that equates drunkenness with availability, the defense lawyer and the judge appear to have missed this key point: The young woman couldn't give her consent to have sex even if she had wanted to, for the simple reason that she had passed out before the man attacked her.

Clearly, the woman showed some bad judgment in this episode. Nor did her drinking buddies do her any favors by leaving her to sleep off her sickness in the man's bed. In no way, though, do these factors mitigate the terrible crime that was committed.

Anyone who thought -- or hoped -- that Judge Bollinger was just having a bad day last Thursday couldn't have been cheered by his comments to the media during the past few days. He has merely dug himself a deeper hole by continuing to attack the rape law, and by seeming to side with those sleazy males who tell each other that many rape victims were just "asking for it anyway."

Judge Bollinger has had a long, distinguished legal career. However, in giving PBJ to a convicted rapist -- essentially erasing the felony from the man's record -- and then making injudicious comments about so heinous an act as rape, the judge has done serious harm to his reputation.

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