If life imitates art, then draw your own conclusions abou Lawrence A. Gillette, the 44-year-old former theater manager who received a judicial peck on the cheek after second-degree rape of an 18-year-old woman.
The facts of the case are simple: Last August, the young woman and several friends met Gillette at Poor Richard's in Towson. She got drunk and was taken to Gillette's home, where she vomited and was put in his bed, fully clothed, and passed out. Gillette then undressed her and raped her.
All of that is part of the court record, as is Baltimore County Judge Tom Bollinger's reaction in court: probation for Gillette, since the judge felt there was no "violence," plus Bollinger's intemperate remark about "the dream of a lot of men" to find an unconscious woman in their bed.
Here's where you can draw your own conclusions: Months before the rape, the 18-year-old went to a party at Gillette's house, where he'd had T-shirts made for the occasion. The caption on the T-shirt reads: Larry's 10th Annual Halloween Party.
And above it is a drawing: It's the devil, standing over what looks like a bed, about to force himself sexually onto a nude, unconscious young woman.
"I saw the shirt in my daughter's trash can the weekend after the rape."
This is the mother of the victim talking. She is sitting in a little metal chair at her place of business last week, trying to keep her emotions in check. Her daughter is somewhere between a new job and a session with her psychologist, sessions that began shortly after the rape.
The father walks into this room, starts to talk about the rape, puts his hands to his chest and shakes his head. He still can't talk about it, he says, and bolts from the room. The mother starts to relive that night, stops once, starts again.
"My daughter left home that night," she says, "and went to a group she belongs to which studies the Bible. From there, she went to meet her friends at Larry's house, but someone was waiting there who told her everyone had gone to the bar. She hadn't eaten all day. When she got to the bar, she said she had two drinks which Larry ordered specially for her, and then she couldn't walk. She said she practically had to be carried out.
"We heard about it when she was taken to the hospital," the mother says. "When we got there, she could hardly talk. She looked awful. She was in shock, and she kept saying, 'He's a nice man, he's a nice man.' "
In court, Gillette stressed his relationship with the 18-year-old, attempting to make the sex seem consensual. There was much talk that the young woman had visited Gillette, her former boss, at bars or at his home over a period of months.
"Three or four times," the mother says now. "They drank with him when they had nothing else to do. Sex? Of course not. She told Larry she'd broken up with her boyfriend because he wanted sex and she wasn't ready for it.
"Her relationship with him is that she went to his house or to the bar, always in a group. They never dated. She never went anywhere with him alone. There were always a lot of kids there. Like that Halloween party, with the T-shirt."
She holds the shirt in her hand now, and stares at the drawing of the devil and the unconscious woman. The T-shirt was never introduced in court. Last week, Baltimore County Detective Michael Hammond said, "We felt we had a pretty sufficient case without it."
He was right. The great furor isn't so much about the second-degree rape verdict, but about Judge Bollinger's reaction. Instead of a potential 20-year sentence, Gillette got probation. If he stays out of trouble, his felony conviction will be removed from his criminal record.
This has outraged a variety of people, including some who have called for Judge Bollinger to be censured by the Judicial Disabilities Commission.
"It's nice to see people reacting," the victim's mother said. "But how does my daughter deal with it? It's on the radio, it's on the talk shows. She's ashamed. After the rape, my husband wanted to take her out to dinner. . . . She was petrified to go out with her own father."
The father gently insisted. Over dinner, he told her she wasn't to blame herself, and then he handed her a ring.
"Any time you feel doubt about my feeling," he said, "remember the ring."
She wore it throughout the trial. As a reminder of a difficult time, it was a comfort -- unlike the T-shirt with the devil and the unconscious young woman, which her mother found in the trash.