Patsy Davis, a mother, buried her face in her hands and wept.
Her22-year-old son, John Montgomery McDeshen, a good boy who had never been in trouble before, was about to be sentenced for raping a 14-year-old co-worker in the back room of a Parole supermarket.
She had taken the witness stand to say her son had worked nearly every day since he was 9 years old. She had held back the tears long enough to tell the judge her son was working his way through college,his eye on a business degree.
"John's never been in trouble," said Davis. John's tear-stained face twisted in pain as he watched his mother step down and return to the spectators section.
When it was his turn to speak, John McDeshen hesitated, swallowed hard and said, "In my heart, there was consent. I did not rape this girl. I am guilty of a fourth-degree sex offense, and for that I am truly sorry.
"I love my family. I love my girlfriend. I love my fellow man. I did not rape this girl. I don't know why she's doing this to me," McDeshenadded. "I've been convicted. The only thing I can do is ask for leniency."
When Circuit Judge Martin A. Wolff said he was not willing to go lower than guidelines included in a pre-sentence investigation,a faint "no" came from the defendant's mother. Wolff then sentenced McDeshen to five years in prison. The defendant's knees buckled, and he leaned forward, using his hands to support his weight on a table.
That the sentencing of John McDeshen was a somber, emotional proceeding was no surprise. When a jury returned with a guilty verdict after his trial in December, McDeshen turned to his accuserand shouted,"Why did you do this to me? You know it didn't happen like you said it did." His brother, with tears in his eyes, rose and began to move menacingly toward the victim and her family before being restrained.
The victim, a South River High School student, did not attend yesterday's sentencing hearing.
Although he was sentenced to five years yesterday, McDeshen remains free. He had been free on $10,000 bond while awaiting trial and, later, sentencing. Wolff said McDeshen could remain free on $20,000 bond if an appeal were pending on the condition he have no contact with the victim or her family. After the hearing, McDeshen's father, a retired police officer, led the family downstairs to sign a new set of papers laying down the equity in their Pasadena house as bond.
McDeshen, of the 900 block Spa Road, Annapolis, was convicted of second-degree rape, false imprisonment, assault and battery and a fourth-degree sexual offense. He had been working asa cashier at the Giant supermarket at the Festival at Riva last July21 when he had intercourse with the 14-year-old girl in a storage room at the store.
What is commonly known as statutory rape is a fourth-degree sexual offense under state law. If a girl is 14 or 15 and she has sex with a man who is at least four years older, the man is guilty of a fourth-degree sexual offense; hence McDeshen's admission prior to his sentencing.
But the rape case swung on the girl's claims that McDeshen forced her to have sex with him. The defense's case was not helped when the prosecution presented witnesses -- other female supermarket employees -- who said McDeshen had a habit of pawing them whenever he was alone withthem in out-of-the-way areas of the store. McDeshen testified it was the women who couldn't keep their handsoff him.
Prosecution witnesses also said the girl seemed traumatized after the incident.
The jury deliberated for two and a half hours before convicting McDeshen. Afterward, the victim and her aunt said they were not surprised by McDeshen's outburst. The aunt said the defendant's family, throughout the two-day trial, had tried to intimidate the girl, muttering remarks, calling her and her family "liars and tramps."
Convicted of second-degree rape, McDeshen faced up to 20 years in prison at yesterday's sentencing hearing.
He fired histrial attorney, Michael F. Gilligan, saying Gilligan had not bothered to interview witnesses. Yesterday, attorneys Robert E. Powell and David M. Grove argued for a new trial.
Powell said new evidence hadsurfaced in the case, but Wolff said the evidence was nothing the trial jury hadn't heard, and he denied the motion for a new trial. McDeshen's mother then took the stand to say her son's conviction had shocked her friends and others in the community, adding, "It's just absolutely tore us up."
Dawn Elliott, McDeshen's fiancee and also an employee at the Giant, then took the stand. Fighting back tears, she said she and McDeshen had planned to marry and start a family with "a house, cats, dogs and children. It's all ruined."
Grove told the judge that McDeshen did not have a criminal record.
Assistant State's Attorney Cynthia M. Ferris then asked the judge to put McDeshen behind bars. She said the family may believe McDeshen to be an upstanding, gentle citizen, but "that was a young man who was aggressive, whotook advantage of a young girl and put her in a situation she did not want to be in." Ferris said the girl believes the attack triggered an eating disorder, which has caused her to lose 50 pounds. She said the girl is in counseling.
As McDeshen left the courtroom, he spotted a reporter and, as he passed, he vowed, "We're not done."