The Baltimore County Police Department said Wednesday that it terminated an officer who was sentenced to home detention last week after being convicted of second-degree rape, as victims’ advocates for survivors of sexual assault blasted the judge’s sentence.
Anthony Westerman, 27, was sentenced to four years in prison but was allowed to remain on home detention pending an appeal by Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Keith Truffer, the county state’s attorney announced Monday. Prosecutors say the judge’s decision likely means he will not serve any time behind bars.
In sentencing Westerman, Truffer determined there was “not evidence of any psychological injury to the victim,” despite that the fact that she indicated she had received therapy, the prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said the judge made that finding despite having remarked at the time of the verdict that what happened to the victim “may be the most traumatic moment of” her life.
“I’m disappointed in the outcome,” State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger said in an interview. “I do not believe when you’re convicted of second-degree rape that home detention is appropriate and I certainly don’t believe only four years on this kind of crime is appropriate.”
But Westerman’s defense attorney, Brian Thompson, said prosecutors didn’t put evidence into the record about the victim’s trauma, and that the judge focused more in his sentencing remarks on the fact that Westerman had no prior record.
Thompson said Westerman should never have been convicted, and said he will appeal. He said the verdict was “clearly against the weight of the evidence.”
Westerman had been suspended from the county police department without pay since he was charged. County police said in a tweet Wednesday that he’s now been terminated.
TurnAround Inc. and the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault blasted the sentence and prosecutors’ account of the judge’s justification, saying rape undeniably causes psychological harm. They said the law should be changed to allow a victim’s word to be enough to prove psychological injury.
“It is time for us to ask serious questions of ourselves and of the systems which are supposed to protect us,” the organizations said in a statement Wednesday. “Every light sentence like this one says to the survivor - this is not a big deal. Ultimately, this entrenched blame-the-victim mentality causes immense harm to all survivors and perpetuates a lack of trust in the justice system.”
Detectives began investigating Westerman in 2019 after being notified of at least three women who allegedly were assaulted, police said previously. The women knew each other and had compared accounts, prompting the report to police.
“[One of the victims] asked if she moved forward with going to the police and stuff, if I would follow behind her in support,” the rape victim testified, according to a transcript.
The rape case stemmed from Oct. 4, 2017, when, according to charging documents, Westerman was at a bar in White Marsh and told a woman he would arrange an Uber to take her and her friend to the second woman’s home.
Westerman instead had the driver take all three to his home, where he allegedly raped one of the women while she was unconscious, according to prosecutors. The 22-year-old woman told her friend about the assault and the two immediately left, police said. Thompson, the defense attorney, said that evidence showed what happened was consensual.
Prosecutors said Westerman also was convicted of second-degree assault for an incident involving another 22-year-old victim. In that case, the woman told police she was at a birthday party in Middle River with Westerman when he grabbed her and tried to kiss her multiple times until she left, according to the charging documents.
He was acquitted of counts related to a third alleged incident.
The cases were tried together before the judge, without a jury. Thompson said Westerman took that path to get a court date amid a backlog of cases due to the pandemic, which has meant that only cases involving an incarcerated defendant were being heard.
“The only reason he changed to a court trial after 15 months, there was no end in sight and he wanted to get it behind him,” Thompson said. “But for the pandemic, we would’ve tried those cases separately in front of juries.”
Sentencing guidelines called for Westerman to receive between five and 10 years, Thompson said. He said the judge’s sentence of 15 years, with all but four years suspended, was within that range.
However, instead of being ordered into custody after the sentence was handed down, the judge “stayed” the sentence as Westerman pursues an appeal.
But Shellenberger said Westerman is unlikely to serve any time behind bars at all because his time on home detention will count toward his time served and the appeal will be a lengthy process.