Westminster man given 20-year term for rape

Attack follows pattern of `predator,' judge says

October 24, 2001|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

A 53-year-old Westminster man was labeled a "sexual predator" yesterday in Carroll Circuit Court and sentenced to 20 years in prison for a sexual attack upon a homeless woman last year.

Joseph A. Hamm was convicted in July by a Carroll County jury of second-degree assault and a third-degree sex offense upon the 37--year-old woman, whom the prosecutor described as psychologically vulnerable.

The two met at a Westminster homeless shelter and Hamm took the victim to his sister's house, then sexually assaulted her during the night, said Deputy State's Attorney Tracy A. Gilmore, who called Hamm a predator who singles out women with mental or physical disabilities.

"She thought Mr. Hamm, who she knew as `Warlock,' was a friend - and look what he did," the prosecutor said, asking for two consecutive maximum 10-year sentences. "She gets a weekend away, and she gets attacked."

Gilmore said the attack occurred soon after Hamm was released from prison on his 1996 guilty plea to second-degree rape. The victim in that case was an 18-year-old Westminster woman with physical disabilities, whom he met at a Main Street bar and invited for a home-cooked meal with his sister. No sister and no dinner were at the house, where Hamm lured the woman to the basement and attacked her, Gilmore said. Hamm also has other rape convictions on his record from 1970 and 1978.

"I think Mr. Hamm picks his victims. I think he picks them very well," she said. "He does target vulnerable women. His history is one of violent sexual assault."

Hamm insisted that he was innocent when asked to speak before sentencing by Judge Michael M. Galloway. Defense attorney Jeffrey Woodard had asked for a 1 1/2 -year sentence because state sentencing guidelines call for one to three years of incarceration. He also noted his client's contention that this was the only time he did not admit guilt when accused of an attack.

"Your honor, I fought this here from Day One. I say I'm not guilty of this charge," Hamm told the judge.

When handing down the sentence, Galloway said, "I agree with the state: I believe Mr. Hamm is a sexual predator [who] seeks out vulnerable victims to prey upon."

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