Judge in rape case agrees to 'sensitivity' training Balto. Co. judge to follow advice of judicial panel

May 20, 1993|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Staff Writer

The Baltimore County judge whose sympathy for a convicte rapist drew demonstrations and demands for his removal agreed yesterday to participate in a training program intended to "increase his sensitivity" about sexual-assault cases, a lawyer said.

The training program for Judge Thomas J. Bollinger was recommended by the complaints subcommittee of the Committee on Gender Equality of the Maryland Judiciary and Maryland State Bar Association, said subcommittee member Susan Carol Elgin, a Towson-area lawyer.

Subcommittee members told Judge Bollinger at yesterday's meeting "that we saw a need for him to receive some additional training to increase his sensitivity," Ms. Elgin said. "We advised him that we saw in his comments at the hearing and thereafter a need to increase his knowledge of the effect rape has on victims and on society as a whole.

"We believe that if Judge Bollinger participates openly in this program, he will understand the trauma inflicted on victims of rape and will, as a result, alter his future comments, behavior and attitudes."

Designed with advice from experts on rape, the program could include viewing of videotapes, group discussions, rape-crisis training and talks with victims of rape, she said.

L Judge Bollinger could not be reached for comment last night.

The subcommittee's recommendation arose from the judge's comments on the sentencing of Lawrence Allen Gillette, 44, who was given probation before judgment rather than a prison term for a second-degree rape conviction.

While the jury rejected Gillette's claim that the victim enticed him, the judge said she "facilitated" the rape. The law, nevertheless, makes Gillette's actions 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."

Also, 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 complaints resulted from the light sentence and from remarks by Judge Bollinger in subsequent interviews that were sympathetic to the defendant and critical of the victim's behavior and of the second-degree rape law.

"I'd rather see a crime of 'sexual exploitation,' a misdemeanor -- a sexual violation that does not involve violence," the judge said in one interview.

"In a robbery, I grab your purse and push you. [But] if you get up and leave your pocketbook on the bench and I take it, [it's larceny]."

"It's a legal argument much debated by scholars, he said.

If Gillette meets the judge's conditions of home detention and community service, stays away from bars and young girls, and pays for counseling for the victim, he will have no criminal record in connection with the rape.

A jury convicted the former Loews theater manager in January of raping an 18-year-old employee last August, after she met him and several other young female friends at Poor Richard's bar in Towson. She got drunk, and friends walked her to his home nearby, where she vomited and passed out fully dressed.

She testified that she later awoke undressed, with her boss raping her. Gillette testified that the woman had consented to the sexual act.

Assistant State's Attorney Stephen Bailey had asked Judge Bollinger to give Gillette some prison time, if only on weekends, "because the defendant still to this day has not acknowledged that he did anything wrong."

Gillette had been entertaining young women with drinks at his apartment and at Poor Richard's for years, Mr. Bailey told the judge. "What he did was not an aberration; it was the culmination of many many poor choices. This was his dream come true," he said.

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

After Gillette's sentencing, two state senators, the Women's Law Center, the victim's mother, members of the Women's Action Coalition and others drafted letters to Maryland's chief judge, the Gender Equality Committee and the Commission on Judicial Disabilities asking for the censure or removal of the judge.

The equality committee was established as a result of a 1989 study of gender bias in the courts.

Because of its agreement with Judge Bollinger, Ms. Elgin said, the committee will not file a complaint with the Commission on Judicial Disabilities. That commission, established by constitutional amendment in 1966 to investigate complaints against judges, can recommend punishments ranging from reprimand to removal from the bench.

Ms. Elgin said her panel's goal is to eliminate gender bias in the courts "through education, not punishment. The tool is education to alter behavior and, ultimately, attitudes."

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