Former Carroll schools superintendent to ask judge for new trial in rape case

Lawyers argue evidence fails to support conviction

January 12, 2004|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Nearly five months after he was convicted of raping and sexually abusing an elementary school-age girl during the summer of 2002, former Carroll schools Superintendent William H. Hyde is scheduled to appear in court this week to ask for a new trial and, if unsuccessful, to be sentenced.

Hyde's attorneys are expected to argue that the former schools chief should get a new trial because evidence presented at his August trial did not support his conviction. The lawyers have written in court filings that the young girl's testimony contradicted the medical findings of the forensic pediatrician who examined her, and that the trial judge's characterization of the case as "close" is tantamount to the prosecution not proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Should Carroll County Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. refuse Hyde's request for a new trial at a hearing today, the former schools chief is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday.

Hyde, 62, who left Carroll in August 2000 to take a superintendent's job in Montana, was convicted Aug. 21 of second-degree rape and of sexually abusing the girl in summer of 2002 at her home in Carroll County.

Tracy A. Gilmore, Carroll's deputy state's attorney, declined to discuss what sentence she'll ask the judge to impose, saying it would be "inappropriate to comment on that outside of the courtroom."

Sentencing guidelines recommend a prison term of five to 10 years on a second-degree rape conviction for someone with no prior criminal record, although the maximum penalty on that charge is 20 years. The judge could add prison time for the lesser charges.

Hyde has been living in a rented cabin in a small Idaho town about 50 miles from the Canadian border and will remain free on $50,000 bail - the amount set at the time of his arrest in August 2002 - until he is sentenced.

The original charges stemmed from an alleged incident July 15, 2002, at the home of the girl's family, court records show. An examination of the girl "showed evidence consistent with long-term sexual abuse and a recent injury consistent with genital contact," according to court documents.

The Sun is withholding details from the case to protect the girl's identity.

Police arrested Hyde in August 2002 at the Maryland State Police barracks in Westminster, where investigators spent a day questioning him about the suspected abuse. A grand jury indicted him on the charges about a month later. Authorities later accused Hyde of raping and sexually abusing the girl between July 11 and July 12 at the same home, according to the indictment. The young victim indicated to investigators that she had awakened on several occasions in July to find Hyde touching her buttocks and genital area.

In a March 2003 pretrial hearing, Hyde described a verbal and emotional "beating" he said he endured before saying in an apology letter that he had inappropriately touched the girl. He tried to bar the statements from his trial, but Burns ruled that he voluntarily submitted the notes.

Hyde's career in education spanned 39 years - including 11 years as assistant superintendent in the Carroll school district before becoming superintendent in 1998.

The eight-day trial began Aug. 11, 2003, and included testimony from the victim, the pediatrician who examined her, investigators, the girl's mother and Hyde. The child described the night she awoke to find Hyde, partially undressed, hovering over her.

Defense attorneys Edward M. Ulsch and Kathi Hill argued that the investigation was laden with mistakes.

They brought in expert witnesses - a clinical psychologist and a nationally recognized expert in police interrogations and false confessions - who criticized leading interviews that they said could have pressured and misled the girl into mistakenly naming Hyde as her abuser and a coercive interrogation of Hyde during which authorities bullied him into apologizing for something that he insisted he did not do.

Hyde maintained his innocence throughout the proceedings.

When Burns delivered his guilty verdict to a crowded courtroom Aug. 21, he said that he had found the girl's testimony to be "believable and convincing."

Sun staff writer Athima Chansanchai contributed to this article.

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