Man who got 10 years for choking woman freed 1996 battery conviction overturned

Guilty plea gets him a sentence of time served

October 23, 1997|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

A Lutherville man whose conviction last year for choking his girlfriend brought an unusually stiff sentence of 10 years was freed this week after an appeals court voided his battery conviction and Baltimore County prosecutors decided not to retry him.

Haralabos S. Stavrakas, 26, pleaded guilty Monday to beating Megan Fowble, his former girlfriend. In exchange for the plea, he received a new sentence of 10 months and 10 days -- the amount of time he had spent in prison, said Assistant State's Attorney John Hamel.

Circuit Judge Dana M. Levitz also ordered Stavrakas to serve five years' supervised probation, attend domestic violence counseling and have no contact with Fowble.

A reporter's call to his lawyer seeking comment was not returned yesterday.

Stavrakas was convicted in December of beating Fowble and choking her after she tried to break off their six-month relationship at Stavrakas' Lutherville home in September 1995. She had gone there to return his stereo and retrieve her belongings.

During the trial, Fowble's doctor testified that she had a bruise on her neck in the shape of a handprint and suffered two loose neck vertebrae, as well as other bruises.

Before Monday's hearing, Fowble had testified against Stavrakas in six trials. Hamel said Stavrakas had been tried four times in Baltimore City on charges that he beat Fowble in downtown Baltimore the same day as the incident in Lutherville.

He was found guilty in city District Court, then appealed the case in Circuit Court, first getting a hung jury, followed by a mistrial and then an acquittal.

In the county, Stavrakas' first trial resulted in acquittal on several counts and a hung jury on a battery charge.

A second trial, in December, resulted in conviction and the 10-year sentence. But that was overturned in July by the Court of Special Appeals, which ruled that the jury should have been told it could consider Stavrakas' argument that Fowble was trespassing at his home at the time of the incident.

This week, Assistant State's Attorney S. Ann Brobst said her office decided not to retry the case because "this poor victim has been to court seven times, and she'd had it."

Fowble, 26, an administrative specialist in the research department of B. T. Alex Brown, said yesterday that she was unwilling to testify at another trial. But she was not happy to see Stavrakas go free.

"I now understand why women do not press charges and do not follow through the judicial process because of what I've been through. It's been over two years, and it put my family and myself through hell," she said.

Though Stavrakas has been ordered by the court to stay away from her, Fowble said, "It doesn't make me feel safe and secure. I don't go anywhere alone."

Stavrakas' previous 10-year sentence, imposed by Baltimore County Circuit Judge John F. Fader II, was considered unusually long for a battery conviction.

At the time, Fader called Stavrakas "a threat to society," and wrote, "I can only hope that time and punishment will change the ways of one with such a demonstrative and continuing propensity to batter and humiliate women."

Pub Date: 10/23/97

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