Court strikes down sentence for slap

January 19, 1995|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

The Court of Special Appeals ruled yesterday that a 15-year prison sentence imposed on a Caroline County man last March for slapping his wife was "grossly disproportionate" to the crime.

The appeals court reversed Caroline County Circuit Judge James Owen Wise's sentence of George Thomas, who was found guilty of slapping his wife, Shirlene Thomas, at their Ridgely home April 2, 1991.

The court ordered that a different judge conduct the resentencing.

In 1991, Judge Wise had sentenced Thomas to 20 years, saying the 34-year-old defendant -- who attacked and beat his wife six days after slapping her -- posed a threat to Mrs. Thomas' life.

Thomas also was sentenced to a 30-year term for beating his wife, to be served consecutively. Court records show Thomas chased his wife into their home, in violation of a court order to stay away, and hit her in the head with a steam iron.

"He beat this woman to within an inch of her life," said Gregory Injeian, Caroline County's deputy state's attorney.

Last year, however, the Court of Appeals ordered Judge Wise to reconsider the 20-year term, ruling that the sentence violated Thomas' Eighth Amendment guarantees against cruel and unusual punishment. The court said any prison term imposed for the slap should be considered separate from Thomas' subsequent attack.

In a brief interview yesterday, Judge Wise said that he imposed the 15-year term March 23 on Mr. Injeian's recommendation.

"I was trying to protect her for the balance of her life because I thought he would kill her when he gets out," Judge Wise said.

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