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Woman in Bel Air parking garage rape case testifies; defense claims sex was consensual

The Bel Air municipal parking garage is central to a rape case being tried in Circuit Court this week.
The Bel Air municipal parking garage is central to a rape case being tried in Circuit Court this week. (Allan Vought | The Aegis)

A prosecutor told jurors during opening arguments Wednesday morning that the alleged rape of a woman by two brothers inside the Bel Air municipal parking garage last fall "is a case about control, about a woman who thought she was in control and could handle the situation, but she couldn't."

But a lawyer defending one of the accused, Ryan Thomas Corn, 22, said the sex that occurred early on the morning of Oct. 11, 2014, was consensual between the victim and his client and the client's brother, telling the jury of eight women and four men that the victim did not try to ward off the attack or summon help that was readily available nearby.

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Corn's trial on charges of first-degree rape, second degree rape, three counts of a first degree sex offense and three counts of second degree sex offense got underway after two days of jury selection, during which more than 200 prospective jurors were screened. His older brother, David Eric Corn Jr., 26, faces the same charges and will be tried separately in October.

Corn's lawyer, David Krum, of Rockville, who along with Augustus Brown, of Bel Air, is defending him, said the evidence would show his client, a C. Milton Wright High School graduate, who was working as an electrical apprentice, had done nothing illegal and was "involved in a consensual sexual encounter." Neither brother, Krum said, used physical force or had a weapon.

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The courthouse in Bel Air where Harford County Circuit Judge M. Elizabeth Bowen is hearing the case is just across Main Street from where the victim first encountered her alleged attackers in the Main Street Tower Restaurant and a block from the parking garage where the rape occurred.

Members of the jury, which also includes four women alternates, have been cautioned by Bowen not to visit the restaurant or use the parking garage, nor to spend any time looking at either building when driving by.

In her opening statement, Assistant State's Attorney Trenna Manners said the 29-year-old victim first encountered her alleged attackers inside the restaurant, where she had gone for a night out with her mother and another woman.

When the victim later walked to her vehicle in the parking garage and the two men tried to "escort" her, Manners said, "This is where the balance is tipping...she's no longer in control...she tells them 'go back inside, not interested,' and then she finally realizes she's no longer in control."

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From there, the victim was allegedly raped by both brothers next to her vehicle and left in a heap on the floor of the garage, said Manners, who is prosecuting the case along with Assistant State's Attorney Cristin Treaster.

The victim, who gave emotional testimony as the trial's first witness, said Ryan and David Corn followed her from the front of the restaurant to her car, which was inside the garage – located across Burns Alley from the restaurant, refusing to leave her after she insisted she did not need or want their assistance or their company.

Although she testified she had been drinking, the victim, whom The Aegis is not identifying because of the nature of the crime, said she was not drunk or out of control.

When the two men tried to lock arms with her, as if she needed help, she said she pushed them away and kept walking down the middle of the surface parking lot between the restaurant and the Harford County Sheriff's Office building, crossing Burns Alley and entering the garage, where the vehicle she had come in with her mother and another woman was parked right inside the entrance.

The prosecution introduced surveillance video from inside the restaurant and outside, the latter which shows the victim and the Corn brothers walking toward the parking garage, and at one point she appears to be pushing one of their arms away.

The defense claims the victim did not try to fight off her attackers, flee or call for help, even when a woman passed by them on the way to her own vehicle, a point not disputed by the victim during her testimony.

Under both direct and cross examination, the victim said several times she was confused and traumatized and that she believed her father, who had come to pick them up in another vehicle, was right behind her and she had seen a police car sitting on the surface parking lot as the bar was closing. She also acknowledged texting a friend and seeking help while the attack was occurring, but not calling 911 when it was over. Instead, she said, she fell into a heap on the ground by her vehicle.

When asked by Treaster, one of the prosecutors, why she didn't try to run away, the victim said: "They were two males, I'm one person. Two is more than one."

Earlier in her testimony, under cross examination by Krum, the victim became hysterical when the defense lawyer suggested she had moved from the back side to the front of her vehicle, which was parked inward toward the middle of the garage, in order to shield the trio from the view of anyone entering the garage, rather than running out of the structure toward Main Street where people were leaving the Tower and other bars at closing time.

On redirect by Treaster, however, the victim explained the brothers kept crowding her until, as she sought to find an unlocked front door to the vehicle, they pinned her face down on the hood of the vehicle.

"I wanted to get in the car" and away from them, she said.

Texted about rape

The second and final witness called Wednesday by the prosecution was a friend of the victim, who confirmed he received a text message from her that she was being raped and needed help. The text threads from the exchange also were introduced into evidence.

At first, he said, he was unsure how to react, because "you don't get something like that out of the clear blue." When she didn't respond a second time, he said, he became concerned and was eventually able to contact the victim's parents. By that time, however, she was already en route to Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace.

The friend, who has since become engaged to the victim, returned to the witness stand when the trial reconvened Thursday morning and, under cross examination by Brown, said he and the victim had met during the summer of 2014 via Facebook. She had earlier testified that at the time of the rape, he was her "ex-boyfriend."

He said he was at his home on the night of the rape, but had talked with the victim by telephone and was aware she was going out to The Tower with her mother and another woman. He also told Brown that a "screen shot" of the text exchange about the rape, which was shown Wednesday on an overhead projector in the courtroom, appeared to have been taken from his cellphone.

Also testifying Thursday morning was Candice Johnson, of Bel Air, who placed the Corn brothers, one wearing a black shirt, the other an orange one, inside The Tower in the hours before the rape, saying she had seen them trying to assist a woman who was "clearly drunk" as she walked from a restroom back toward the bar. She said she had seen the woman before, and identified her as the mother of the victim, who she said she didn't recall ever seeing before that night.

She also said she had seen David Corn before in the bar and said "hello," at which point the person with him, who she didn't know, tried to hug her. She said she was taken aback by the overture.

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"Oh, this is my brother," Johnson said David Corn told her. Asked by Manners to identify Ryan Corn in the courtroom, she said he was sitting to her left at the defense table.

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Johnson said she saw the victim and her parents preparing to leave The Tower when she went to leave and encountered a fight among the group outside, so she went back into the back bar of the restaurant to wait for things to settle down.

Sometime between 1:30 and 2 a.m., Johnson said, she saw the victim's mother inside The Tower's back bar and assumed the woman had come back in through the rear entrance.

During the same time period, Johnson said she and a companion left The Tower by the rear entrance and went over to their car in the parking garage, where they encountered the victim sitting on a low concrete wall.

"She [the victim] was very distraught – crying, her makeup running, very disheveled."

Johnson said her companion called 911 while she tried to comfort the victim.

"She [the victim] told me she had been 'raped by two brothers,'" Johnson said.

Johnson said she then noticed David and Ryan Corn standing some distance away inside the parking garage and walked over to them. David Corn, she said, greeted her by saying, "'It's a good thing I know you,' which I thought was a little weird."

When she told the brothers there had been a rape, David Corn walked away and left the garage, while Ryan Corn continued talking "nonchalantly," at one point saying "that's stupid" regarding the alleged rape.

Johnson said she tried to get the attention of police, who by that time had arrived and were cordoning off the garage. She got the attention of her companion and told him to tell the police about the Corns.

By then, she said, Ryan Corn also had exited the garage and was walking in the direction of Hickory Avenue with his brother. According to charging documents, Bel Air Police picked up the brothers near the garage shortly after their description was broadcast over police radio.

Under cross examination by Krum, Johnson said she thought she had told police about David Krum's comment to her in the garage, but acknowledged she did not when shown the transcript of her police interview.

She also agreed she had mixed up what brother was wearing what color shirt during her direct testimony.

The trial is expected to extend well into next week and possibly beyond.

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