Man found guilty of rape

Waller could face 20 years after entering plea to lesser charge

April 12, 2008|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,Sun reporter

A convicted rapist accused of attacking a woman at an Anne Arundel County light-rail station last fall was convicted yesterday of a reduced charge because of convenience store security camera footage that showed the 50-year-old man and his young victim holding hands just before the assault.

Initially believed to be a random attack, the incident raised concerns about security at light-rail stations. But the video backed up defendant Eugene Waller's assertion that the girl had approached him to buy her beer and that together they had ventured into the woods near the Linthicum station to drink.

Waller, who has a nearly 30-year history of violent sexual assaults and other sex-related offenses, wailed and sobbed as Circuit Judge William C. Mulford explained the ramifications of entering an Alford plea, in which Waller denied guilt while conceding that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict him of second-degree rape.

Though charged with first-degree rape, which carries a maximum penalty of life, Waller now faces the possibility of 20 years.

"Given the evidence that we had, it was an appropriate plea," said Kristin Fleckenstein, a spokeswoman for the Anne Arundel County state's attorney's office.

His arrest - and the discovery that he had slipped through a number of cracks in the justice system - outraged domestic-violence activists. Days before the Oct. 9 attack, Waller was acquitted on a technicality of indecent exposure on another light-rail train in Anne Arundel and walked out of a courtroom, though a warrant should have been out for his arrest for failing to register a current address.

For more than a year before that, authorities in two jurisdictions had been unsuccessful in locating him, and he had been inadvertently left off the state's public database for sex offenders. Anne Arundel police told The Sun in December that they had become wrongly convinced that it was not their responsibility to locate him.

According to prosecutors, Waller and the 22-year-old victim met after she got off at the Nursery Road light-rail stop and asked him to purchase beer for her. They went into the Royal Farms store, wandering the aisles and at one point holding hands, according to defense attorney Elizabeth Palan.

They eventually purchased alcohol from a nearby liquor store and walked back into the woods along the tracks to drink. Prosecutors said Waller's demeanor changed and he struck her and threatened to kill her. He dragged her deeper into the woods, prosecutors said, and raped her repeatedly.

Yesterday's account differed significantly from the initial charging documents, in which the woman told police she was sitting on a bench at the Nursery Road station when a stranger jammed what she believed to be a gun into her side and dragged her down a hill.

The victim escaped by jumping into the Patapsco River and running toward Nursery Road. She was naked and wrapped in plastic, and a passing motorist gave her his jacket and called 911. Police said they spotted a man, later identified as Waller, coming out of the woods and apprehended him as he attempted to flee in the river.

According to officers who testified at a motions hearing last month, Waller referred to the girl as a "stupid crackhead" and said he was "at the wrong place at the wrong time" as evidence was collected from his body at Harbor Hospital.

He told police that he had met the woman at the Cromwell light-rail station and rode with her to the Nursery Road station. He said that while they were in the woods drinking, she asked him for $10 to buy drugs. Waller said that he told her he didn't have enough money, and that she became angry and "started acting crazy," eventually jumping into the water.

"I did not touch this woman," he reportedly told detectives.

But an exam confirmed that the woman had wounds consistent with rape. DNA evidence taken from Waller matched that of the victim.

Prosecutors said the victim had alcohol in her system, as well as opiates. About a week after the attack, the woman was charged in Anne Arundel District Court with drug possession and has since pleaded guilty. She was also charged four times in November with theft and is appealing her convictions, according to electronic court records.

The Sun does not identify victims of sexual assault.

A series of missteps allowed Waller, who was apparently homeless, to remain free in the months leading up to the attack, despite failing to follow guidelines as a registered sex offender.

Upon his release in 2003, after serving time for a rape conviction, he was required to register for life as a violent sex offender.

After Waller was convicted in August 2006 of indecent exposure and of failing to notify authorities of his current address, an Anne Arundel County judge placed him on unsupervised probation, sparing him from having to check in regularly with a probation agent.

When Anne Arundel County police determined a month later that Waller had again failed to give an accurate address, state police said they would declare him an "absconder," which should have triggered an arrest warrant. But no one applied for one.

Waller was arrested again in December 2006 on a charge of exposure in Anne Arundel County, but a District Court commissioner told The Sun that she released him to await trial because she was unable to look up his criminal history on a computer server that had temporarily crashed.

An Anne Arundel Circuit Court judge threw out the indecent-exposure charge in October because the alleged victim could not be sure whether the incident occurred in the county or city.

The Linthicum rape occurred six days later.

Waller will be sentenced next week, and Deputy State's Attorney Laura Kiessling said the state will ask for the maximum sentence.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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