Man who raped Korean woman sentenced to life plus 20 years He has been charged in two other assaults

March 24, 1998|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

A former Ellicott City man who police say targeted Korean women in a series of rapes was sentenced to life plus 20 years in prison yesterday after his conviction in the first of four sexual assault cases against him.

Howard Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney said Tak Wha Tsang, 39, attacked a 38-year-old Korean woman because he believed her cultural background and limited English would keep her from pressing charges.

"It was a night of brutal terror that was chilling even in the most prosaic retelling," Sweeney said of the February 1997 attack, referring to testimony that Tsang had handcuffed, robbed and sodomized his victim, a hairstylist who immigrated to this country 10 years ago.

Tsang is set to stand trial in Howard County May 6 on charges he sexually assaulted two other women in their Ellicott City homes in 1996. He also faces sexual assault and armed robbery charges in Baltimore County. His trial date in that case is April 23.

Before being sentenced yesterday for first-degree rape, armed robbery and other charges, Tsang wept in court, apologizing for his actions. Hands behind his back, the Hong Kong native alternately sobbed and spoke in broken English.

"I dishonor my parents," said Tsang, a former car salesman and food distributor, who came to the United States in 1973. "My grandfather once told me, 'You are very lucky to be here and not in China. This is a country of liberty, justice and opportunity.' "

Yesterday, he talked of his divorce and his love for his twin daughters, one of whom was born with cerebral palsy.

His emotion contrasted with the cool demeanor he showed during his weeklong trial last fall listening to testimony that -- wearing black gloves and a mask, and brandishing a knife -- he handcuffed the Ellicott City woman, took pictures of her nude and raped her.

Tsang had denied raping the victim and claimed the woman had offered him sex -- allegations that brought cries of character assassination from the victim's relatives.

Yesterday, Sweeney read aloud the English translation of a statement submitted by the victim, who was not present. It described the attack as "a misery and a nightmare that cannot be expressed with any words."

Prosecutors said the victim has trouble sleeping in her house. "Her home will never be a home again after this crime this was the ultimate act of terror that a man could inflict on a woman," said Assistant State's Attorney Michael Rexroad.

Relatives of the victim said she tried to sell her home, but could not, and has installed an alarm.

The victim "is now a little getting better, but she is still a lot hurt," her brother said outside court.

Added the victim's brother-in-law: "I hope life plus 20 years keeps him off the street forever."

This attack was the last of the three Howard County attacks in which Tsang has been charged.

In the first attack, police said a woman was raped on April 22, 1996. The victim was assaulted after she was handcuffed and had a cloth placed over her head.

Before leaving the woman's apartment, the attacker took her passport, telephones and $200, and instructed her to take $5,000 out of her bank account and leave the money at a drop-off location, threatening to hurt the woman's daughter if she did not comply, police said.

Police said the woman removed the money from her bank account and left the cash at the location. It was unclear from court records what happened to the money.

The other attack occurred nine months later. Tsang is accused of breaking into a woman's apartment, taping her hands behind her back, sexually assaulting her, and stealing $2,000 and a diamond ring valued at $2,000.

Pub Date: 3/24/98

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