Dundalk doctor goes on trial in 1991 White Marsh assault


Did Dr. Leonard Harris, a 37-year-old Dundalk physician whom co-workers described as "mild-mannered," break into one woman's White Marsh apartment, threaten another White Marsh woman with a gun and try to drag her into her apartment, as prosecutors charge?

Or is Dr. Harris, who also is charged with raping three women in separate attacks dating back to July 1990, a victim of circumstance and mistaken identity, as his attorney claims?

Those two conflicting views were presented to a Baltimore County Circuit Court jury yesterday as Dr. Harris went on trial for attempted kidnapping, assault and daytime housebreaking.

In his opening statement to the jury yesterday, prosecutor Scott Shellenberger said Dr. Harris is guilty of "terrorizing" a 64-year-old woman and her 27-year-old neighbor.

Yesterday, during a rare in-court lineup, Lisa Cline, the younger woman, quickly identified Dr. Harris as the man she saw grab her neighbor, Betty Craven, on Nov. 29, 1991. She also said Dr. Harris put a gun to Mrs. Craven's chest and only let go of her when a police officer arrived.

Dr. Harris' attorney, Rodney Gaston, said in his opening statement that his client was only looking for an apartment that day and that he found the chrome pistol, which turned out to be a BB gun, and a red mesh T-shirt. The doctor, whom the women mistakenly thought had broken into Mrs. Cline's apartment, was about to take the items to the rental office when the altercation began, Mr. Gaston said.

Mr. Gaston said his client tried to explain to Mrs. Craven about the pistol and the shirt, but she grabbed him. Holding the pistol and hearing the wail of approaching sirens, Dr. Harris "panicked," Mr. Gaston said.

He said Dr. Harris, who is black and was in a predominantly white section of White Marsh, feared the police would shoot him if they saw him with a pistol. He said his client ran around the back of the apartment building, threw away the pistol and the T-shirt and drove home.

According to Mr. Shellenberger, the prosecutor, a police officer radioed Dr. Harris' description to other officers, who followed him to his home.

The rape charges against Dr. Harris involve attacks on two women in White Marsh in February and November of 1991 and on a third woman in a Towson State University dormitory in July 1990. He has been convicted in California of assaulting one woman in 1989 and spying on others in 1988.

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