Hyde asks exclusion of evidence in his case

Former schools chief is charged in the rape, molestation of young girl

March 11, 2003|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Former Carroll County schools Superintendent William H. Hyde was in court yesterday in an effort to have his statements to criminal investigators and an apology letter he wrote to the elementary school-age girl he is accused of raping and molesting barred from trial.

Prosecutors, responding to the defense request that the statements be thrown out because they were not voluntarily given, called to the witness stand the lead investigator in the case, who said Hyde was "extremely cooperative" before his arrest Aug. 8. The investigator, Ruth Ann Arty, also offered graphic testimony about sketches drawn by the young girl and recounted a disclosure that suggests the alleged abuse might have begun years earlier.

Prosecution witnesses also testified that Hyde never explicitly acknowledged that he abused the girl. Rather, confronted with the results of a lie detector test that he failed, he described the evidence as "overwhelming," Arty said.

"Maybe I did do this, and I don't remember," Arty quoted Hyde as saying. "Maybe I did this and was asleep when I did it."

Hyde sat quietly in court, occasionally whispering to his attorneys and taking copious notes, which he shared with them. His face reddened several times, particularly during some of the more emotional and graphic testimony.

Hyde, 61, who was Carroll's school superintendent from 1998 to 2000, was charged in August with sexual child abuse, third- and fourth-degree sex offenses and second-degree assault. He was indicted on similar charges in September.

A grand jury added a new and more serious count last week, charging him with raping the girl he is accused of molesting. Hyde, who has been free on bail and living in Idaho since his arrest, could receive up to 20 years in prison if convicted on the second-degree rape count.

A lifelong educator, he quit his post with Carroll schools in August 2000 to take a superintendent's job in a small school system in Montana. He left that job last summer to work as an educational consultant.

Defense attorneys have asked that the judge throw out Hyde's written and oral statements as well as any evidence - including a laptop computer and saliva samples - taken from Hyde. They argued in written requests that the statements were not voluntary, and that they were made before Hyde had seen an attorney.

They did not call any witnesses yesterday.

In several hours of painstakingly detailed testimony, Arty and state Trooper Gary Bachtell, a polygraph expert, recounted for county Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. the steps they took before Hyde's arrest Aug. 8 at the state police barracks in Westminster, where they had spent nearly all day questioning him.

Arty, who works for the state's attorney's office, testified that Hyde sought her out to discuss the case after he learned Aug. 7 of the allegations. The former schools chief had known Arty for nearly a decade, having crossed paths in professional circles and in the many instances when she needed to contact someone from the county school system as part of child abuse investigations.

"He said he would be on our schedule and wanted to get this done with," she testified.

The resulting 21 1/2 -hour schedule took Hyde from an 8 a.m. meeting Aug. 8 with Arty at a Friendly's restaurant in Reisterstown to the Westminster police barracks and then the county Detention Center, where he was released about 5:30 a.m. the next day on $50,000 bond after having been charged with molesting the young girl.

In between, Arty testified, Hyde consented to the polygraph test, wrote two letters of apology to the girl, agreed to provide a DNA sample through saliva and voluntarily spoke at length with Arty and other investigators.

In her testimony, Arty described sketches of male genitalia drawn by the alleged victim. In talking about the drawing, the girl suggested to Arty that the alleged abuse might have begun as early as four years earlier, the investigator said. A forensic pediatrician who examined the girl reported findings "consistent with sexual penetration," Arty testified.

The investigator said she asked Hyde whether he thought the girl was lying about the alleged abuse. She quoted his response: "If she says it happened, it did, but maybe I was asleep."

Arty characterized Hyde's demeanor at that point as "contemplative, quiet and no longer smiling." Hyde told her and Bachtell that he believed in the science of polygraph tests and the skills of child abuse investigators, Arty said.

"He said if he believes in the science and the skill, we both understand this must have happened and he wondered how sick he must be to block it out," Arty testified. She said Hyde suggested that "perhaps it was too hard to admit because it didn't fit his public image and it didn't fit his person."

Burns made no ruling yesterday, and he will continue hearing testimony this morning. Maryland State Police Sgt. James T. DeWees, supervisor of the county's child abuse and sexual assault unit, is expected to take the witness stand.

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