UNNAMED STEPDAD repeatedly raped and sexually abused his wife's daughter beginning when she was 14 years of age, and continuing for at least two more years. He confessed to his wife four years later, and she is now divorcing him. Of course, his attorney is saying what a "good man, decorated soldier, and caring nurse" he was. His minister thinks he's a great guy, too. But has anybody checked with his former patients? Or his stepdaughter to see what she thinks? Guess not--I suppose their opinions don't matter much to the press or the Powers that Be.
Looks like the unnamed stepdad will get off easily, too--the Circuit Court Judge Paul A. Hackner thinks a long prison sentence would be "counterproductive." Counterproductive to whom?
Mother: Didn't notice child abuse
Husband watched child porn, looked at picture of girl during sex with wife
By SCOTT DAUGHERTY, Staff Writer
The mother was oblivious to the signs in 2000 and 2001.
Her husband was having sex with her 14-year-old daughter two or three times a week, but all the woman said she saw was the decorated soldier and devout Christian.
"I ask myself over and over, how could I not have known," the mother said, according to a recording of a court hearing. "When he constantly watched porn of 10-year-old girls until 3 in the morning, I should have known. He even pulled out a picture from his wallet (of my daughter) while having sex with me."
The Capital is not identifying the husband nor the mother to protect the identity of the victim, the man's stepdaughter.
The husband, 42, a former master sergeant and Odenton resident who was serving at Fort Benning, Ga., at the time of his January arrest, pleaded guilty May 7 to one count of child abuse. He was sentenced June 18 to 18 months in a county jail.
Police and prosecutors did not charge the mother with anything. She remains free and is the process of divorcing her husband, who filed the paperwork shortly after his arrest.
The mother's comments in court June 18 - comments the defense dismiss - reveal how difficult it can be for parents to accept a loved one would abuse a child, and how willing they can be to dismiss signs other would find obvious, experts said.
"The denial can be very great," said Marsha Gilmer-Tullis, director of the Family Advocacy Division of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "They choose not to see it."
"There is a lot of myth out there that child abusers are strangers ... lurking behind the bushes," added Lisae Jordan, legislative counsel for The Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault. "People aren't as inclined to look at their loved ones."
According to court records and testimony, the husband started molesting his stepdaughter in 2000 after her 14th birthday. It started with fondling and quickly evolved into sex in her bedroom. Prosecutors said he had sex with her two to three times a week until mid 2002.
The husband confessed to his wife in January 2004 he had molested her daughter. He then went to a counselor, to whom he confessed again.
County police were not aware of the abuse until last year, when the marriage between the mother and stepfather started to fall apart. Detectives sought a warrant Dec. 19 after speaking to the mother and the victim, who is now 23. A warrant charging him with second-degree rape was served a couple weeks later in Georgia, leading to his Jan. 7 extradition to Maryland.
The husband apologized in court to his wife and stepdaughter for his actions.
"I realize my actions will have a lasting effect," he said, asking the judge for lenience. "The choice that I made was the wrong choice."
Ronald Bergman, the husband's attorney, said his client was a good man, decorated soldier and caring nurse. The man had received several medals over a 23-year military career, he said.
The mother complained in court that her husband ruined her life and the life of her daughter. The woman said she can no longer trust men and that she feels like a bad mother.
Bergman noted that while his client's marriage to the mother struggled over the past few years, they stayed married, attended parties together and even went on vacation with each other as recently as 2007. It was his client, not the victim's mother, who filed for divorce Jan. 27. He claimed adultery on the part of the mother.
Bergman went on to discount the woman's comments in court. He said the husband denied watching child porn and looking at a picture of the victim during sex.
"That sounds all very dramatic, but I'm not giving it a lot of credence," he said.
Rev. Dr. Lee Washington of the Reid Temple A.M.E. Church in Glenn Dale, Prince George's County, said the husband joined his church in 1999 and was active in several different church groups. He regularly worked to help the homeless and to welcome newcomers to the church.
"He always displayed a very agreeable disposition and character," Washington said.
Assistant State's Attorney Kathy Rogers said the man's good deeds don't matter though.
"He is no less guilty of this crime because of his stellar past," she said, asking the judge to order the man to spend four years in prison and to pay $946 in restitution - the cost of his extradition from Georgia.
State sentencing guidelines called for the man to serve between four and nine years in prison.
Circuit Court Judge Paul A. Hackner said he thought such a long sentence - one that would require the husband to serve time in a state prison - would be counterproductive. He said he believed the man was remorseful and interested in redeeming himself.
He sentenced the man to nine years in prison, but suspended all but 18 months to be served in a county jail. The man agreed to waive any credit he could have received for the six months he served while awaiting his trial.
"The incidents, which are egregious and protracted, occurred a good many years ago," Hackner said June 18 before handing down the sentence. "He has done a good amount to rehabilitate himself, not necessarily to impress the court, but as it is part of a change over to his view of how he should live his life."
Jordan, of The Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said it was "unfortunate" the judge felt a few years of good behavior mitigated the fact the man repeatedly had sex with his stepdaughter.
"It's an astoundingly short sentence," she said.