Man convicted of rape though woman recants

February 25, 1994|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Sun Staff Writer

A 21-year-old Baltimore man was convicted yesterday of raping and beating a former girlfriend -- even though the victim said she lied about the rape and wound up as a defense witness.

In a victory for Baltimore County's new family violence unit, Jacques Kevin Agent, of the 3300 block of Wilkens Ave., was convicted on other evidence: testimony by police, emergency room personnel and the victim's former roommate, as well as photographs of the victim with a swollen face and bruises all over her body.

State's Attorney Sandra A. O'Connor set up the special team last month specifically to pursue serious domestic violence cases as felonies -- including those in which the victim refuses to cooperate.

After a two-day nonjury trial, Circuit Judge Alfred L. Brennan found Agent guilty of first-degree rape and assault with intent to disable in the Aug. 14 attack at the woman's Catonsville-area apartment. The judge ordered a presentence investigation.

The woman, now 18 and living on the West Coast, returned last Friday and unexpectedly told prosecutors that she didn't want to pursue the case.

Assistant State's Attorney Stephen Bailey went ahead anyway but did not call her as a witness, an unusual move when the victim is available.

That forced defense attorney Domenic R. Iamele to call the woman as a defense witness, which, he said, "is a new one for me [in] 20-some years" at the bar.

The woman testified that she and Agent had engaged in a stormy relationship since she was 15 and said he was the father of her 1-year-old son. On the night of the incident, she said, they had a particularly bad fight.

"I was screaming and arguing," she said, and at one point threatened to stab Agent. She said she eventually agreed to sexual intercourse, but became angry again and hit him with a perfume bottle. Although he'd never hit her before, she said, this time "he pushed me down on the bed and then he hit me three times."

When she saw her face in the mirror, she became angry, she said. "My lip was busted. I just saw blood everywhere, and I just got real scared. I was real mad. . . .

"I would have said and did anything to make him suffer."

But the charge of rape was "a lie," she said.

Although she now fears being prosecuted for lying in her original complaint, she said, "I can't sit up on this stand and let Kevin go to jail because of something I did. I know a lot of women that this happened to change their story at the last minute because they're intimidated or something . . . but that's not my case."

Under cross-examination, she denied telling others that she was afraid of Agent's family or friends. She wept during a bench conference, and Agent's mother brought her some tissues.

She told the judge several times, "This isn't fair!" when ordered to answer Mr. Bailey's questions.

Arguing for acquittal, Mr. Iamele said the woman's recantation created reasonable doubt about Agent's guilt.

But Judge Brennan noted that the first word on the woman's hospital record was "rape" and that "it stayed that way without recantation until Friday, Feb. 18," when she changed her story.

Whether she feared the defendant or just wanted to keep him free so that her child could have a father, the judge said, "there was an aura of uncertainty about her."

"If you were to look at these pictures . . . bruises and marks over her entire body -- her legs, her knees, her thighs, her face, her shoulders, her neck, her cheeks . . . I feel that the state has met its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt -- and they did it the hard way, without the use of the complaining witness," he concluded.

While Mr. Iamele denounced the verdict as the result of feminist activism, Mr. Bailey said, "This is not a feminist issue; this is a criminal justice issue."

"We wouldn't have gotten this verdict six months ago," he said, ** "because we wouldn't have . . . been of a mind set to go forward [without] the training that we received in how to approach these cases and prepare them without the victim."

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