Man's confession of abuse was legitimate, court rules


A 54-year-old Taneytown farmer convicted of sexually abusing his oldest daughter for nine years was not forced to confess to the crime, the Maryland Court of Appeals has ruled.

The court, in Annapolis, rejected the man's argument that his confession to a state trooper -- detailing years of bizarre and brutal abuse to his four daughters -- was coerced.

The ruling, which came Monday, upholds the man's conviction and 50-year sentence imposed by then-Circuit Court Judge Donald J. Gilmore.

"There are several links in the long chain that brings this case to us," wrote Associate Judge Howard S. Chasanow in the unanimous opinion. "The first -- and certainly not the least -- is when members of the family confronted him, late in the spring of 1989, with dark secrets two of his adult daughters had just shared with them."

Those "dark secrets" were why the man's family decided to compel him to undergo treatment, even though the abuse occurred from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s.

The man -- whose name is being withheld to protect the identity of his daughters -- was convicted in March 1990 on six criminal counts involving sexual abuse charges that stretched from the time his oldest daughter was 8 years old until she turned 17.

The abuse was revealed in June 1989 by the daughter, who was then 29, when she became concerned for the safety of her 9-year-old niece, whom her father was to baby-sit.

His confessions of the abuse -- revealed in counseling and directly to a state trooper in a taped interview at the man's farm -- were the key pieces of prosecution evidence at his trial. He was convicted of abuse involving only his oldest daughter.

The man's Westminster attorney, Judith S. Stainbrook, argued that the Court of Appeals should reverse Judge Gilmore's ruling because the defendant's confessions were involuntary.

By seeking counseling, Ms. Stainbrook told the court, the man believed his family would not press criminal charges against him.

On referral from the family's Baptist minister, the man went to Family Children's Services Center in Westminster, where he was required to sign a standard waiver form giving his counselor the right to share information about child abuse with police.

Before he signed the form, the man sought advice from Assistant State's Attorney Kathi Hill, who handles a large number of sex cases in Carroll. She declined to give him advice, but he later signed the form.

Ms. Stainbrook argued that it was clear to the man that he was not going to be prosecuted if he told the truth.

The Court of Appeals disagreed.

"She did not promise [the man] any advantages or benefits," the court said of Ms. Hill's involvement. "Without a promise of benefit or advantage, there was no inducement."

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