Man's sentence for sex assault of 2 girls is upheld

June 08, 1994|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

A panel of Howard Circuit judges has upheld the 30-year prison sentence given to a man convicted of sexually assaulting two Ellicott City girls in 1991, saying it is unlikely he could be rehabilitated.

Patrick Leo Cunningham, 54, asked the three-judge panel to review his sentence at a hearing last month, but the judges declined to alter the prison term in a ruling issued Thursday.

The panel -- made up of Judges James B. Dudley, Raymond J. Kane Jr. and Cornelius F. Sybert Jr. -- could have reduced or increased Cunningham's sentence, which was set by Judge Dennis M. Sweeney in December.

Cunningham of Owings Mills maintains that he did not commit the six crimes he was convicted of in a jury trial in October. He has appealed the conviction to the state Court of Special Appeals.

"The defendant denies involvement in this case and that almost precludes rehabilitation," the judges said in their ruling. "The panel concludes that the sentence imposed was appropriate and reasonable."

In the ruling, the judges also noted that the counseling Cunningham received for two previous convictions on indecent exposure charges appears to have been ineffective.

At the hearing last month, Catonsville defense attorney Thomas McCarty called Cunningham's prison term a "death sentence," saying that Cunningham may not survive the sentence because of severe heart and kidney ailments.

Mr. McCarty also argued that statements prepared by the victims and their families for Cunningham's sentencing were given too much weight by Judge Sweeney because there was nothing to contradict them.

He said that records from the county Sexual Assault Center, where the victims received counseling, would have countered their statements but that he was not permitted to introduce them as evidence because of a court ruling.

Cunningham was convicted of performing sex acts on two 9-year-old girls at a creek on July 1, 1991, near the Normandy Woods apartment complex, where he had lived.

Judge Sweeney sentenced him in December to 40 years in prison for two counts each of second-degree sexual offenses, perverted sexual practices and child abuse. The judge suspended 10 years of the term.

Cunningham must serve 7 1/2 years in prison before he is eligible for parole, according to state guidelines.

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