A judicial retirement long overdue

In sentencing in minister's case, Judge Bollinger reverts to old ways

July 02, 2011|By Dan Rodricks

Thomas J. Bollinger Sr., associate judge of the Baltimore County Circuit Court, hit the mandatory judicial retirement age of 70 last month, but he's still on the bench, and a certain Catonsville minister must be happy about that.

Roan Faulkner, a Pentecostal bishop, sexually attacked a distressed woman who had gone to see him for help. For this he got an 18-month prison sentence, and the accommodating Judge Bollinger suspended all of it.

That's not even a slap on the wrist; it's a caress.

Bishop Faulkner should thank the Almighty that Judge Bollinger was assigned his case. After all, this is the same judge noted over the years for showing deference to men who attack women. Back in the 1990s — it seems like only yesterday — his ignorant comments in a rape case and outrageous handling of a domestic assault prompted calls for his dismissal. In fact, Judge Bollinger recused himself from such cases in an effort to put the controversy behind him.

Evidently, he's still in the game.

Bishop Faulkner, pastor of New Life Pentecostal Ministries, was accused of second-degree rape, second-degree assault, two sex offenses and committing unnatural or perverted acts. A 43-year-old congregant, grieving over her brother's medical condition, went to see the good bishop for help. According to the state's case against him, Bishop Faulkner gave this vulnerable woman $100 for her brother's medical care, then began kissing and hugging her. He then exposed himself, fondled the woman, forced her to the floor, tore her clothing and tried to rape her. The woman began crying, prosecutors said, but Mr. Faulkner forced her into a sexual act. She complied because she "feared for her safety."

The state had lined up three other women to testify about advances Bishop Faulkner made toward them, according to Sun reporter Nick Madigan's story about the case.

Given all this, the bishop didn't put up much of a fight. In May, he pleaded guilty to second-degree assault to avoid trial on the other charges. Even so, he faced up to 10 years in jail for his crime.

But, of course, he got nothing except five years' probation and court costs.

Judge Bollinger apparently believes that merely being accused of such terrible things could be enough to set the bishop straight. "If this isn't a wake-up call for the defendant," hizzoner said in court last week, "something's wrong."

I guess a guy can get a "wake-up call" about brutalizing women at the age of the 63. Better late than never.

Judge Bollinger seemed to express some sympathy for the defendant.

"His reputation in the community has been affected," said the judge, who should know a thing or two about that.

In April 1993, Judge Bollinger took pity on a 44-year-old Towson movie theater manager who raped an 18-year-old employee while she was unconscious after a bout of heavy drinking. The judge gave the defendant probation and nothing more, referred to the crime as "date rape," criticized the Maryland rape law, said the victim had "facilitated" the attack and — most memorable of all — observed that getting a drunken teenage girl in bed was "the dream of a lot of males."

The reporting of Judge Bollinger's comments set off loud calls for his removal and brought picketers to the Towson courthouse. The judge agreed to some sensitivity training. When Maryland's judicial disciplinary commission reprimanded him but found no official misconduct, he quickly issued a statement saying that he had been "exonerated."

A few years later, Judge Bollinger erased the conviction of an Owings Mills pawnbroker who brutally beat his estranged wife's head numerous times against a tile floor. Why did the judge change the man's battery conviction to probation before judgment? So that the guy could have a clean record, get on with his life and, among other things, join a country club.

(I don't make it up, folks, I just dredge it up.)

Again, there was considerable public outrage, with calls for Judge Bollinger's head. After a few days of intense protest, hizzoner reinstated the wife-beater's conviction, then disqualified himself from future cases involving sexual offenses or domestic violence.

That was in 1997.

Fourteen years later, Judge Bollinger is still on the bench, and he's still deferential to a man who attacks a woman.

Many retired judges continue to preside over cases because of the heavy dockets around the state. However, it's time to insist that Judge Bollinger hang up the robe and take a nice, long rest. He's way overdue.

Dan Rodricks' column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. He is the host of Midday on WYPR 88.1 FM. His email is dan.rodricks@baltsun.com.

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