Owings Mills man given 30-year-term in sexual assault on 2 9-year-old girls


An Owings Mills man was sentenced to 30 years in prison last week for sexually assaulting two girls while he lived in an Ellicott City apartment complex in 1991.

Patrick Leo Cunningham, 54, was given the sentence in Howard Circuit Court Thursday for two counts each of second-degree sexual offenses, perverted sexual practices and child abuse.

Cunningham was convicted in October of performing sex acts on both girls, then 9 years old, at a creek on July 1, 1991, near the Normandy Woods apartment complex, where he lived.

The girls and their families attended the sentencing hearing before Judge Dennis Sweeney. The names of the victims will not be published to protect their identities.

Cunningham, called Mr. Pat by neighborhood children, did not speak at the hearing. He also did not testify at his trial.

Judge Sweeney sentenced Cunningham to 40 years in prison but suspended 10 years of the term. The judge also required Cunningham to complete 10 years of probation after his release from prison.

The judge said he handed down the sentence to protect society, particularly young girls, from Cunningham, who was convicted of indecent exposure in 1961 and 1985.

"The nature of this type of offense is very troubling," Judge Sweeney said. "The court believes individuals who engage in this type of activity . . . will intend to engage in it again."

Before the sentencing, Judge Sweeney denied a request by Cunningham's attorney, Thomas McCarty of Catonsville, for a new trial. Cunningham is expected to file an appeal of his conviction within 30 days.

"If you ask Mr. Cunningham his position today, he denies culpability in this particular matter," Mr. McCarty said.

Mr. McCarty asked Judge Sweeney to give Cunningham -- a warehouse manager for Comcast Cablevision in Baltimore County -- a lenient sentence because of his client's poor health and sexual disorders.

Cunningham has had triple-bypass heart surgery and also suffers from kidney problems, Mr. McCarty said. A psychiatric evaluation done for the defense said Cunningham needs treatment for sexual disorders, including exhibitionism.

Assistant State's Attorney Walter Closson argued for a sentence of 38 years in prison plus two years of probation. He said treatment was unlikely to succeed because Cunningham continues to deny any wrongdoing in the case.

"The defendant, to this day, has not acknowledged the actions," Mr. Closson said. "He still tends to blame the victims."

At Cunningham's trial, the girls testified that they went with Cunningham to the creek, where they took off their clothing and went swimming.

Police were notified the next day when the parents confronted the girls after they learned they had been smoking cigarettes with Cunningham, according to testimony.

Mr. McCarty argued at the trial that the girls made up the story to avoid getting in trouble for smoking. He noted that the girls were able to talk to each other for about half an hour before giving statements to police investigators.

The jury acquitted Cunningham of 16 other counts in connection with other alleged incidents.

The mother of one of the girls testified that her family became friends with Cunningham in the fall of 1990. The girl, who looked upon Cunningham as a grandfather, often went to his apartment and had dinner with him and his wife, the mother said.

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