Man accused of raping his wife is acquitted

October 27, 1994|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,Sun Staff Writer

A 48-year-old Columbia man was acquitted yesterday of raping his estranged wife but was found guilty of assaulting her in a 1993 confrontation in which he admitted slapping her.

After deliberating for 11 hours, a Howard Circuit Court jury found the man not guilty of the charge of rape and other serious charges, and declared itself deadlocked on a weapons charge.

"I was sweating bullets," John Harris Sr., the man's attorney, said of the two days it took the jury to reach a verdict. "The jury accepted my client's story of what happened that night."

The charges the man was acquitted of were first- and second-degree rape, assault with intent to rape, another sexual offense and perverted sexual practices. They stem from a Nov. 29 confrontation at the couple's home in Columbia's Owen Brown village.

The man remains in the county Detention Center while he awaits trial on a separate charge of assault with intent to murder. In that case, he is accused of attacking another man with a crowbar while they fought over the same woman in January.

During five days of testimony, county prosecutors argued that the man -- whose name will not be published to protect the identity of the woman -- attacked his wife and held her at knifepoint, forcing her to have sex with him.

The defendant admitted that the couple had a confrontation that night but denied that there was an attack.

The man had returned to the house to get clothing, and when the woman returned to the house he hid from her, his attorney said. He became upset and confronted the woman after overhearing her telephone conversation regarding an affair she was having with another man, Mr. Harris said.

The man admitted slapping the woman in the face with the back of his hand during the argument, which led to the assault and battery conviction, the attorney said.

"My client was so truthful that he actually admitted to the jury that he slapped her, and that was enough for the assault. He never did try to hide that," he said.

The jury said it could not decide what the man intended to do with the knife he was carrying. The man said he held it at his own wrist, but the woman said he threatened her with it until she had sex with him.

Neither Senior Assistant State's Attorney Kate O'Donnell nor other lawyers in the state's attorney's office who were familiar with the case returned phone calls yesterday afternoon after the verdict.

The couple, who have been married nine years, have a divorce case pending in Circuit Court.

The man is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 22 by Judge Sweeney.

Mr. Harris said he was not sure of the maximum sentence now faced by his client.

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