Judge's comments on rape criticized Dudley denies blaming teen-age victim of sexual assault

January 28, 1996|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,SUN STAFF

A Howard Circuit judge's remarks in a recent sexual assault case have distressed local rape counselors, who say his statements appeared to blame a teen-age girl for being the victim of a statutory rape.

Judge James B. Dudley made comments that upset the counselors in two court hearings involving a 31-year-old man who has pleaded guilty to fourth-degree sexual assault against the girl, who was 15 at the time, at his Elkridge home two years ago.

Judge Dudley said he wasn't blaming the victim, but merely explaining how the behavior of teen-agers can subject them to criminal acts. He referred to court records that said the girl had gone to the home of Anton F. Marx, where he undressed her and had sex with her.

"They want to direct the attention to me and not direct their

attention to the problem," Judge Dudley said in response to his critics last week. When asked what the problem was, he said: "That a 15-year-old would do this kind of thing."

Sheila Begg, a counselor at the Howard County Sexual Assault Center who attended the court hearings, said the girl should not be blamed because she was a minor. She said Marx was fully responsible for the offense.

"I think it's unfair for anyone in that position to blame a victim or to give a remark that can be construed as victim-blaming," Ms. Begg said. "That makes the healing process more difficult."

Judge Dudley sentenced Marx Jan. 17 to one year in prison, to be served concurrent with a three-year sentence he received in June on an unrelated battery conviction.

Rape counselors said the judge's comments during sentencing echoed his words from a Nov. 20 hearing at which Marx pleaded guilty to the statutory rape.

After calling Marx "a bad actor" who had a lengthy criminal history, the judge complained about teen-age sexual activity that has led to an increased number of criminal cases involving similar incidents.

Judge Dudley referred to a murder trial last fall in his courtroom -- in which Curtis Jamison, then 28, was on trial for killing 15-year-old Tara Allison Gladden to cover up his illegal sexual relationship with the girl. The judge convicted Jamison Oct. 24 and sentenced him Jan. 19 to life in prison without parole.

"We're now raising a generation of people who mate like people in heat," the judge said on Nov. 20, according to court transcripts. "They don't have a date, they don't have an introduction. They may know last names, they may not."

At Marx's Jan. 17 sentencing, he made a remark that the girl's father said unfairly criticized the girl's parents.

"There are hazards to raising children these days," Judge Dudley said, according to court transcripts. "You have to have higher standards than that, because of the effect it has when these cases are presented."

Timothy Mitchell, the prosecutor, had said moments earlier that the girl was not looking for sex from Marx.

"This man seduced a 15-year-old girl who did not have the control of a 30-year-old. That's why the statute is there," Mr. Mitchell said. "The statute is there to protect 15-year-olds from people like Mr. Marx."

Marx has a criminal history that dates back to 1983.

He pleaded guilty before Judge Dudley in November, admitting to having sex with the girl.

Mr. Mitchell said in court that Marx befriended the girl when she walked past his house in the 6400 block of Woodland Forest Drive in Elkridge on March 29, 1994, and invited her to come back the next day.

When she returned the next day, the prosecutor said, Marx invited her into his home, took her upstairs and engaged in sexual acts with her.

The prosecutor said the girl cried once during the incident and later said no, in a soft voice.

The girl told police that she did not consent to sex, according to the charging document. But prosecutors said they did not have enough evidence to charge him with more serious sex offenses.

The statutory rape offense carries a maximum one-year sentence. Had the crime occurred seven months later, Marx would have been eligible for a maximum 10-year sentence under legislation that went into effect in October 1994 to impose stiffer penalties on adults over 21.

Mr. Mitchell asked the judge to impose the maximum one-year sentence to run consecutive to the three-year term Marx already is serving.

But Judge Dudley issued a one-year concurrent term. He said later that "the therapeutic purpose of imposing a punishment was already accomplished."

Judge Dudley acknowledged that 15-year-olds are not responsible, under Maryland law, when adults commit illegal sex acts against them.

"But they certainly have to be mindful of the danger when they expose themselves to the conduct of an adult like this," he said. "We used to get these cases several times a year, and now we're getting them several times a month."

Ms. Begg said she was disheartened by the remarks in court because she was impressed by the judge's sensitivity last month to a 23-year-old woman when convicting a county police sergeant of sexually assaulting her.

"His eloquence and his validating of that victim was so encouraging and we were so grateful for his words," she said.

"When the victim should feel that justice has been served, meaning the criminal has been punished, I don't think the victim expects to have herself blamed for the act."

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