Angered by a probation sentence given a 44-year-old man who raped a semiconscious female employee, a small crowd of demonstrators descended on Towson's courthouse plaza yesterday to call for the scalp of Baltimore County Circuit Judge Thomas J. Bollinger.
Shouting "Bollinger off the bench" and "Rape is not a fantasy," the contingent of 65 protesters was led by disc jockey Lisa Simeone, who wore a black robe.
Rosalie S. Abrams, director of Maryland's Department of Aging and a former majority leader of the state Senate, was among the picketers. She carried a sign that said "Older Women Object Too."
"What is this, the Dark Ages?" Mrs. Abrams said, noting that she helped reform Maryland's rape laws in the 1970s.
Mrs. Abrams and the other demonstrators were protesting Judge Bollinger's sentence of probation before judgment last week for Lawrence A. Gillette. He is a former cinema manager convicted of raping an 18-year-old employee who was passed out drunk in his bed one night last August.
They said they were particularly angry because the judge seemed to sympathize with the defendant, that he questioned the second-degree rape law under which Gillette was convicted, and that he said the victim facilitated the rape.
That law makes it a crime to engage in sex with someone who is incapacitated and unable to consent, including those who are retarded, unconscious or intoxicated.
The comment that seemed to most infuriate his critics yesterday was the judge's statement at last week's sentencing that having a pretty young woman drunk and helpless in bed was not only Mr. Gillette's dream come true, but is "the dream of a lot of males."
Mary Ellen Medved, a Towson resident, said she came to protest because she found the incident "so shocking. [Judge Bollinger] didn't know when to shut up."
Petitions calling for Maryland's Commission on Judicial Disabilities to censure Judge Bollinger publicly were distributed by members of the Sexual Assault Domestic Violence Center Inc., based in the 6200 block of N. Charles St.
Two state senators and a women's law group are asking judicial authorities to reprimand Judge Bollinger. The victim's mother also has complained to the Judicial Disabilities Commission.
Ms. Simeone, a disc jockey at WJHU, said yesterday's 40-minute demonstration was just the beginning.
"You have to start with small steps," she said. "You can't just sit back. Maybe nothing will happen. Maybe we'll be back here next week, or next month or next year."
According to his trial testimony, Gillette made a habit last summer of taking his young, underage ushers into Poor Richard's, a Towson bar, for bouts of drinking.
On the night of the attack, the victim got so drunk that friends took her to Gillette's nearby apartment, where she threw up twice before passing out on his bed. Later, he undressed and had sex with her.
At his trial, according to a transcript, Gillette said he initiated the sex but contended the victim helped undress herself and eventually participated willingly. He said he was drunk at the time. She testified that she remembered throwing up, knew where she was and knew a man was on top of her, but did not protest and was only vaguely aware of what was happening.
Several jurors contacted after the sentencing said they believed Gillette was technically guilty because the law specifically covers sex with an impaired person. However, they said they believed the sentence was fair.
Poor Richard's was fined $1,000 by the county liquor board and lost its license for four days after a hearing in December on charges that it served an underage police cadet -- two weeks before the incident involving Gillette.
Several county judges watched yesterday's parade briefly, although Judge Bollinger was not at the courthouse and was not available for comment, according to his secretary.
Rick Hiteshew, Gillette's roommate, taped the event with his video camera. He said he and Gillette's other friends are convinced that the victim did consent to sex and has changed her story since the trial.
"I think Judge Bollinger looked at it [sentencing] from a legal standpoint, not a political standpoint," he said.