Westminster man pleads guilty to molestation, child abuse


A self-described murder suspect, who said sexual abuse charges against him were a ruse by prosecutors to get him behind bars for questioning, pleaded guilty yesterday to molesting a woman and showing a pornographic movie to a girl.

Roy Monroe Robertson of Westminster had been charged with more than 14 criminal counts involving two children and three adults over 20 years. Prosecutors dropped all but two of the charges and agreed to a two-year prison sentence.

"I'm surprised it ended up like this," said Judith S. Stainbrook, a Westminster defense lawyer who represents Robertson. "I'm surprised, because prosecutors honestly believed they would get a conviction in at least one trial, and I honestly thought we'd get an acquittal."

The plea came as the first of five jury trials was to begin.

Assistant State's Attorney Kathi Hill could not be reached for comment on the plea.

Robertson, 45, was arrested in January and has been in the Carroll County Detention Center since. Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. gave Robertson credit for his time behind bars, which means he could be freed in several months.

An investigation of Robertson began last September after a 6-year-old girl told her grandmother that Robertson had sexual contact with her more than 13 times, according to the 14-count indictment. The investigation included interviews with another 6-year-old girl and with two women and a man in their 30s. Two of the adults said they were molested between 1960 and 1971. The third said she was molested in the 1980s.

The plea yesterday covered the cases involving one of the girls and the woman who said she was molested in the 1980s. At the time, she was Robertson's girlfriend.

Judge Burns sentenced Robertson to a total of 10 years for child abuse and perverted sexual practice, but suspended eight years of the term.

At a bail review hearing after his arrest, Robertson emphatically denied the abuse. Ms. Stainbrook contended the charges were a ruse to compel her client to answer questions about the February 1993 shooting death of William C. Prodoehl, a Westminster man whose body was found in Harney after he failed to return from a fishing trip.

"I believe the charges here now really have nothing to do with sexual abuse," she said at the hearing. "All of this is an attempt to try and get Mr. Robertson in custody to try and question him in the Prodoehl case."

No one has been arrested in connection with the 18-month-old homicide.

Prosecutors have not brought the case before a county grand jury, and it is not clear when -- or if -- they will, sources said.

Robertson first proclaimed that he was a suspect in the slaying in May 1993, when he declared that Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman had used deceit to obtain his private mental health records from Springfield Hospital Center.

Robertson alleged that Mr. Hickman obtained the records by telling Springfield officials that documents were being sought in a "suspected case of abuse or neglect."

In all cases other than abuse or neglect -- including murder -- mental health records can be released only with the patient's permission or a court order.

Three days after Robertson filed suit against Mr. Hickman, the records were returned. Mr. Hickman said the reason was they were useless to investigators.

At the time, Mr. Hickman denied using deceit to obtain the records.

Carroll Child Abuse and Sexual Assault unit investigators have testified that their investigation of Robertson began in September 1993.

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