Woman refuses to testify against spouse in attack

June 28, 1994|By Joe Mathews | Joe Mathews,Sun Staff Writer

The woman managed to keep her composure on the witness stand. But after telling a Carroll Circuit Court judge yesterday that she wouldn't testify against her husband on charges that he raped her at gunpoint a month before their January wedding, she shed tears as she returned to her front-row seat.

Her mother-in-law comforted her.

The decision not to testify by the woman, who is five months pregnant with her husband's child, triggered a plea bargain that will allow him to avoid jail. Their names are being withheld to protect her privacy.

Prosecutors had charged that the man entered her car as she took her 2-year-old child from a previous marriage into a Westminster day care center early on Dec. 8, 1993.

The man was accused of refusing to leave the vehicle and forcing her to drive to his parents' house in Manchester. At the home, the husband allegedly drew a gun, threatened to kill the woman and himself, and raped her, according to court documents.

The husband told state police that he had pulled a gun only to impress her. He also said the sex was consensual.

Immediately after the assault, the man forced the woman to drive him to his mother's place of business in Reisterstown, where he was arrested by Baltimore County police, according to court papers.

But yesterday, with her witness unwilling to talk, Assistant State's Attorney Kathi Hill dropped five of the six charges against the husband, including rape, kidnapping, assault and use of a handgun in the commission of a felony.

Circuit Judge Raymond C. Beck convicted the husband of battery and gave the 33-year-old carpenter a four-year suspended sentence, on the condition that he continues to seek help for psychiatric as well as alcohol and drug problems. In handing down the sentence, Judge Beck used harsh words to describe the husband's conduct. The judge said that even if his wife forgives him, "The state doesn't.

"This is a particularly ugly case of domestic violence," he said.

Ms. Hill indicated that if the woman hadn't invoked a law allowing her not to testify, the state would have prosecuted the husband for rape.

"But for the fact of her invocation, we wouldn't be proceeding like we are today," Ms. Hill said.

The man, whose lawyer said he had been in trouble before for "a domestic violence situation" with another woman, asked the judge for a suspended sentence so his client could be with his wife during the birth of their child.

"I've made a lot of mistakes," the man said. But now, "I've gotten my life back together."

The couple met in September 1993 and within weeks were living together, according to the defendant's attorney, Frank D. Coleman.

By the week before the Dec. 8 incident, the woman had picked out a dress and reserved a church for her wedding, Mr. Coleman said. But the couple broke up.

Within the month, however, they reconciled and were married Jan. 10 while the man was in the Carroll County Detention Center.

Mr. Coleman, in arguing for the suspended sentence, urged Judge Beck to "let this marriage have a chance."

"This couple is trying to get their life going," he said. "And as you've seen, it has had a difficult . . . and unusual start."

The couple have moved to Hanover, Pa.

"Hopefully, this is the concluding chapter in a case of domestic violence," Judge Beck said. "The court can only hope that the two of you succeed after a very, very rough start."

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