N.C. man sentenced for threats to women

He's first in state prosecuted under anti-stalking law

July 24, 1999|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

A North Carolina man was sentenced to nearly three years in federal prison yesterday for terrorizing four women he once dated -- relentlessly threatening to kill or maim them, stalking them at work and at home and even telling one woman's family that she was dead.

Edwin R. Carter, whose threats began as long as a decade ago and ended only with his arrest in July 1997, was the first person in Maryland to be prosecuted under a new federal anti-stalking law. One of Carter's victims is from Anne Arundel County.

Before his sentencing in U.S. District Court in Baltimore yesterday, Carter told the court he was sorry for his attacks on his former girlfriend, Michele Danoff, 35, and Oregon television reporter Dana Cowley.

He said the therapy he has been receiving since being arrested has helped him realize how much he hurt them.

"For 35 years, I have been in a prison built by my parents," he said. "I intend to stop the cycle of abuse with me.

"If you send me to prison I will still try to change. But I'm afraid if I go to prison I will never get out of my personal prison."

Judge Marvin J. Garbis, however, rejected Carter's argument, saying: "Society can't live like this. We can't have people excused from ruining other people's lives."

Carter, 44, was sentenced to 33 months, minus the three months he served after his arrest. He pleaded guilty in March 1998 to making threatening telephone calls across state lines.

Over the course of the lengthy sentencing hearing, which lasted five days, U.S. Attorney Lynne Battaglia and Assistant U.S. Attorney Bonnie Greenberg argued that Carter's behavior largely toward women over the past decade had been meticulous and planned, and showed no signs of improvement.

Cowley, who flew in from Oregon where she briefly dated Carter almost 10 years ago, described a reign of terror in which Carter broke into her house and stood above her bed. He called her day and night, came to her workplace and hid in parking lots.

She said he cut up her sailing equipment and told her he was going to murder her family.

"He would say I didn't deserve to live," she said through tears. "He was relentless. He was merciless. He totally exhausted me. I sincerely believe he will kill the next woman. I feel very lucky I am here today."

Danoff, of Harwood in Anne Arundel County, did not testify during the sentencing hearing.

Prosecutors, however, said that Carter poured gasoline around her house, threatened to give her a lobotomy and killed her cat.

In addition to hundreds of pages of journals in which Carter described how he would seek revenge on his victims, federal prosecutors also played for the court 34 angry answering machine messages.

In one phone message, Carter says: "I'm well-acquainted with your vindictive, vengeful hateful nature, so if you're considering bringing some kind of legal action against me, consider this: Bad idea. They can't keep me in jail forever, and I'd think about that real hard."

Two witnesses also described how he had destroyed a quilt one woman had made and locked one former girlfriend in the trunk of his car.

During one contentious discussion with Garbis, Carter's attorney, Daniel F. Goldstein, offered a simple reason that Carter had gone to Danoff's house on the day he was arrested. He was there to pick up a book he had left behind.

Garbis said: "Why would a rational person who wants to retrieve a book from someone's house park eight miles away, walk eight miles through the woods, hide in the bushes and run from the police?"

Goldstein said, "Your honor, we are not dealing with a rational person."

Garbis said she felt Carter had made some improvement and agreed he suffered from mental disabilities.

But he emphasized that Carter had been given therapy after a similar conviction in the Washington state court system and continued to harass women.

In Carter's defense, several psychiatrists testified that he made "significant strides" in understanding his uncontrollable actions and fear of rejection, and said that he would best overcome his problems if he could continue with his therapy.

Battaglia, who doesn't usually prosecute cases herself, said she joined this one because Carter's actions were so vicious.

"You can't come away from hearing Cowley and Danoff's stories and not be impressed by how stalking can affect people's lives."

Pub Date: 7/24/99

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