Senators complain over probation for rape Moves afoot to have Baltimore County judge disciplined BALTIMORE COUNTY

April 29, 1993|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Staff Writer

A story in The Sun yesterday on reaction to a Baltimore County rape sentencing last week incorrectly described a victim in an earlier county rape case as being mentally retarded. In fact, the victim in the 1990 case was classified as mentally incapacitated due to intoxication, a condition similar to that of the victim in last week's case. In the 1990 case, Judge Thomas J. Bollinger sentenced the defendant, who was a stranger to the victim and had a previous criminal record, to 20 years in prison.

* The Sun regrets the error.

Two state senators and a women's law group are asking judicial authorities to reprimand a Baltimore County judge for his sympathetic comments and the probation he gave to a man convicted of raping an 18-year-old girl who had passed out at his home.

The victim's mother also has complained to the Judicial Disabilities Commission about Judge Thomas J. Bollinger's remarks last week to Lawrence A. Gillette, a 44-year-old former theater manager. Gillette was convicted of second-degree rape and could have been given a 20-year sentence.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

In letters to Chief Judge Robert C. Murphy of the Court of Appeals and to Judge Edward A. DeWaters Jr., chief of the Third Circuit that includes Harford and Baltimore counties, Sen. Janice A. Piccinini, a Baltimore County Democrat, said her constituents "are outraged by the conduct of Judge Bollinger." Senator Piccinini also wrote to ask the Disabilities Commission to censure the judge.

Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, a Baltimore Democrat, who also wrote to Judge Murphy, said the "comments were injudicious: It takes you back to the time when it was the woman's fault. [The victim] showed no good sense . . . but lack of good judgment is not justification for rape."

For months before the rape, the victim and her friends had visited Gillette, the victim's friend and boss. They went to bars, or to Gillette's home on East Chesapeake Avenue.

One night last August, the woman met Gillette and several teen-age friends at Poor Richard's for Ladies Night. She got drunk and was taken to his home, where she vomited and was put in his bed, fully clothed. Gillette later undressed her and raped her.

Gillette claims the girl consented to intercourse. He still denied his guilt last Thursday when Judge Bollinger gave him probation and home detention and ordered him to perform community service, attend Alcoholics Anonymous and pay for the girl's counseling. The prosecution asked for jail time.

Gillette's felony conviction will be removed from his record if he adheres to all the conditions.

After the sentencing, Judge Bollinger said he believed both the victim and Gillette and felt that there should be a misdemeanor such as "sexual exploitation . . . a sexual crime that doesn't involve violence." Judge Bollinger did not return a reporter's phone calls yesterday.

L Reaction to the sentence and the judge's comments was swift.

On Tuesday, the Women's Law Center, a not-for-profit issues group, decided to file a complaint with the state's Select Committee on Gender Equality, which considers bias complaints, said Susan Carol Elgin, a board member and Towson-area attorney.

"What rape case can he sit on now?" she said. "The victim's not on trial -- no matter that she's 18 or 30, made an error in judgment by getting drunk, or whether she had 1,000 boyfriends."

Lisa Simeone, a local disc jockey, said that the Women's Action Coalition of New York has helped her organize a protest at noon Friday at the Towson courthouse. The aim is to call for disciplinary action by the Judicial Disabilities Commission.

Veteran prosecutors of sexual crimes were surprised by Judge Bollinger's criticism of the state's second-degree rape law.

"April is Rape Awareness Month, so the timing was extremely poor," said Sharon A. H. May, who heads the Sexual Offense Unit for Baltimore's state's attorney's office.

The law, passed in the mid-1970s, encompasses statutory rape of girls 14 and younger, forcible rape without a deadly weapon, including date rape, and rape of the mentally or physically vulnerable, including women under the influence. It specifically applies to vaginal rape, but also covers other acts and protects male victims.

Though second-degree rape cases are often dropped, lost at trial, or end in plea bargains, prosecutors said the crime should remain a felony. They also said second-degree is the most common type of rape.

"These cases are difficult to prove anyway, because of society's attitude toward rape," Ms. May said. "You have better success in cases of stranger-to-stranger, being grabbed in the street [which are less common]. If a woman has any kind of relationship with the defendant, it muddies the water and makes it very difficult to get a conviction. . . . In this case, the jury convicted the defendant."

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