Trial in 1988 sex case delayed

Westminster man accused of trying to hinder victim's testimony

August 07, 2008|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,Sun Reporter

The trial of a man linked to a 1988 sex offense through DNA was postponed this week after police charged him with trying to hire someone to prevent the victim from testifying, court documents show.

An undercover state police detective, posing as a hit man, met with Walter G. Mitchell on July 24 at the Anne Arundel County Detention Center, where Mitchell allegedly told the officer that he "wanted something to happen" to the victim's house or vehicle that would "give her the message not to show up for court," according to charging documents.

He said he could pay $500 and would return the favor, according to charging documents.

Mitchell, 53, of Westminster, was charged Monday with obstruction of justice, soliciting someone to intimidate a witness and related charges. His defense attorney and prosecutors agreed to a postponement of the Tuesday sex offense trial in light of the new charges.

Prosecutor Kathleen Rogers said the victim was "extremely concerned and worried" for her safety. But Rogers said she agreed to the postponement as the new charges may persuade Mitchell to consider a guilty plea. Mitchell has pleaded not guilty to the sex offense charges.

In November 1988, the woman told police she was walking along Ritchie Highway and accepted a ride from a man who then threatened her with a knife and sexually assaulted her in a wooded area in Brooklyn Park.

Nearly 18 years later to the day, in November 2006, police received a hit in a DNA database, and Mitchell was charged with sex offense, battery, assault and a weapons offense the following May.

Three weeks ago, police received a letter from a confidential informant at the county detention center saying that Mitchell was seeking to hire someone to kill the victim, court documents show. Anne Arundel County police and Maryland State Police began a joint investigation, and state police Detective Sgt. Don Harrison eventually met with Mitchell in the visitor area of the jail.

Mitchell allegedly verified the court date and victim's name, and said, "She is not showing up for court, right?" The trooper asked whether Mitchell wanted the victim "to be taken away for this court date or to be taken away permanently," to which Mitchell said he would think about it and get back to him, court documents show.

Each of the three counts related to intimidating a witnesses carries a maximum of 20 years in prison; the obstruction of justice count brings a maximum of five years and a $10,000 fine.

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