Educator's apologies admissible in court

Former superintendent is accused of raping girl

March 21, 2003|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

A Carroll County judge cleared the way yesterday for prosecutors to use at trial two letters of apology that former schools Superintendent William H. Hyde wrote to the elementary school-age girl he is accused of raping and molesting last summer.

Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. ruled yesterday that Hyde voluntarily composed the notes, including one in which he wrote that he was sorry for inappropriately touching the girl. He also turned down Hyde's request to bar from trial his statements to police, ruling that Hyde spoke freely with investigators in the hours leading to his arrest Aug. 8 at the Maryland State Police barracks in Westminster.

During the brief court hearing, the judge dismissed defense arguments that the letters and police statements should be disregarded because the nine hours the former schools chief spent with investigators before his arrest had worn away "his spirit" and any chance that his comments were made voluntarily.

Delineating Hyde's conversations and writings about the alleged abuse into seven statements - including an hourlong confrontation between Hyde and the alleged victim's mother that was taped by police, the lie-detector test Hyde failed the next day and the police interrogation that followed - Burns determined that was not the case.

"The court finds that all seven statements were given in a voluntary fashion by the defendant," he said. "The court finds no time during the periods of time Mr. Hyde spent with [investigators] that police did anything improper to elicit statements from the defendant. Everything the defendant has done was voluntary. At no time was any threat made, any inducement made, to make Mr. Hyde speak to the state."

Defense attorney Edward M. Ulsch declined to comment yesterday on the judge's ruling.

Tracy A. Gilmore, Carroll's deputy state's attorney, also declined to offer a reaction.

"It's a pending case," she said, "and it's really not appropriate for me to comment on it."

Hyde, 61, who has been charged with second-degree rape, sexual child abuse and other related offenses and could be sentenced to 20 years in prison if convicted on the most serious charge, was not in court yesterday. Because Hyde lives nearly 2,500 miles away in Sagle, Idaho, a small town about 50 miles from the Canadian border, the judge did not require him to attend the court proceeding.

Hyde, a 39-year educator and school administrator, left his job as Carroll's schools chief in August 2000 to work for a small school system in a Montana logging community. He left that post last summer to work as an educational consultant and has been free on bail since his arrest in Westminster.

During about nine hours with investigators, Hyde never explicitly acknowledged that he sexually abused the girl. But, confronted with the results of a lie-detector test that he failed and accusations from the girl, he suggested to investigators that he might not remember what occurred, or that he might have been asleep, the lead investigator testified last week during a pretrial motions hearing.

Hyde testified last week that he wrote the apology letters to the girl after badgering from investigators. He said he made clear to authorities that he did not remember ever inappropriately touching the girl and told them he wrote the letters simply because they insisted "this is what [the alleged victim] needs to hear."

Burns ordered last week that the portion of the court file that contains exhibits from the motions hearing, including the two apology letters, be sealed.

Hyde is scheduled to go to trial June 23.

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