Ex-officer convicted of child sex offenses

February 09, 1994|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Sun Staff Writer

Because of an editing error, a story yesterday about the conviction of former Baltimore police officer on child abuse and sexual offense charges mistakenly identified the classification of oral sex crime under Maryland law. It is a second-degree offense.

The Sun regrets the error.

A former city police officer was convicted in Baltimore County Circuit Court yesterday of child abuse and several sex offenses committed during the late 1970s against an ex-girlfriend's daughter.

Bert Ricasa, 51, of Medici Court in Perry Hall, resigned last month after 24 1/2 years on the force as a result of this case and another pending abuse charge.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

While the victim, now an adult, testified that Ricasa had engaged her in a series of sex acts when she was in elementary school, Ricasa countered that she, then 6 to 8 years old, was "a very curious little girl" who sometimes initiated the sexual contact, sometimes lied and was "always craving attention."

Ricasa admitted to a third-degree sex offense and child abuse because he had a custodial relationship with the girl, but he denied a more serious, second-degree offense involving oral sex.

Judge Lawrence R. Daniels set sentencing for April 29, and set bail at $50,000. Ricasa had been free without bail. He also said he would let Ricasa post his house as security. Assistant State's Attorney Stephen Bailey said sentencing guidelines call for 10 to years in prison.

The victim, who wept throughout the closing arguments and the verdict, left immediately after the trial.

Ricasa and his attorney, John Denholm, declined to comment on the verdict, which came after a two-day nonjury trial.

Judge Daniels said Ricasa's testimony wasn't believable, especially when compared with the victim's. She testified that Ricasa had her perform sex acts with him more than 20 times while she was in kindergarten, first grade and second grade.

Judge Daniels said her testimony was "so compelling it appeared to this court that she was actually reliving" the experience. The woman, now 22 and living in another state, wept on the witness stand Monday. She also cried during a 1 1/4 -hour telephone conversation with Ricasa last summer that Baltimore County police taped and played as evidence.

Mr. Denholm argued that Ricasa immediately showed remorse during the telephone conversation.

"Unfortunately, there was some contact," Mr. Denholm told the judge. "She was a very young and very curious little girl." However, he said, there was no evidence of a third-degree sex offense.

The victim testified that the incidents occurred "a couple times a week" as Ricasa napped after working the night shift. Sometimes another girl was present, she said.

"I think about it every day," she said.

Testifying about the telephone call, Ricasa said he was trying to help the woman as she prodded him to admit what he had done. During the call, Ricasa said he could not remember performing the more serious third-degree sex offense with which he was ultimately charged.

Judge Daniels compared having sexual contact with a child to "having a safe fall on one's head: It would obviously be remembered if it had occurred."

He said he didn't understand how Ricasa's "I can't remember" statement could help the woman, as opposed to his telling her, "I did not perform these acts."

The woman said she told her mother about the abuse in 1989 and went to the police last June, after trying unsuccessfully to deal with the psychological problems that resulted from the abuse through crisis lines.

The judge noted that the victim's mother tried to confront Ricasa three years ago by leaving a note outlining the accusation. Since then, he said, Ricasa apparently "fashioned a response" that "walked a very fine line between a sincere effort to help and to insulate himself from criminal liability."

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