A man who kidnapped a student from the Meade High School parking lot and raped her in 1999 was sentenced to 30 years in prison yesterday, closing a criminal case that included his mistaken, though brief, transfer out of prison.
Under a plea deal reached this fall, Eric M. Brunner, 34, agreed to the sentence, but he had hoped for a referral to Patuxent Institution from Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Pamela L. North. Yesterday, in sentencing him to life with all but 30 years suspended, the judge denied the referral.
Brunner, who had lived in several places in Anne Arundel County, was in Eastern Correctional Institution serving a robbery sentence when a comparison of his DNA to that in the November 1999 assault pointed to him as the man who raped a 16-year-old on her way to school. In a victim impact statement, the girl's mother told the court that her daughter went from being independent and confident to being fearful of being alone anywhere, said Assistant State's Attorney Laura S. Kiessling.
Brunner was named in a sealed indictment in early January on the rape charge. Anne Arundel County officials obtained a detainer to prevent his release from prison, where he was serving a robbery sentence of eight years with all but three of them suspended.
In mid-January, however, an Anne Arundel County judge agreed to allow him to receive inpatient drug treatment when space was available, court records show.
And though Brunner pleaded guilty to rape in August, prison officials transferred him to the Second Genesis drug-treatment program in Crownsville in October when a bed became available.
He was there only a few hours. That same day, the rape victim's mother received a notice by mail of his release and contacted county prosecutors, who immediately obtained an arrest warrant and called prison officials.
County police picked up Brunner at Second Genesis, while correctional officers were on their way back there.
"Let me first say we erred," said Capt. Priscilla Doggett, a Division of Correction spokeswoman. "The detainer was lifted by us in error."
Two months after Brunner's rape plea, Doggett said, a worker checked a computer before arranging to move Brunner to Second Genesis and saw no order to keep him detained. "The detainer should have remained on him until sentencing," Doggett said.
She said "corrective action" was taken regarding the worker who mistakenly removed the detainer.
"We retrained staff on how to adhere to the policy - that a detainer would not be lifted until the completion of the sentencing," she said.
Brunner's attorney, assistant public defender David Harding, declined to comment on the case.