The Massachusetts Appeals Court today refused to allow a convicted rapist to withdraw his guilty pleas to a series of aggravated rapes committed in Worcester 16 years ago. The name of the case is Commonwealth v. Gilbert.
On June 26, 2002, the 38-year-old female victim arrived home to her Worcester apartment at approximately 9:00 p.m. She lived with her two young children. When she ran into the defendant outside her apartment, she exchanged pleasantries with him before going inside (the defendant’s parents lived in an apartment across the hall). When the victim unlocked her door, the defendant forced his way inside and covered her mouth to muffle her screams. The defendant then told her to pull down her shorts and underwear and ordered her to follow his instructions to avoid getting hurt. Over the course of the next two and a half hours, the defendant raped the victim every way possible. At one point, he gagged the victim and tied her hands behind her back before taking her into his parents’ apartment where he continued to rape her. In the midst of the sexual assaults, the defendant used a hypodermic needle to inject the victim with cocaine, which caused her to shake and experience heart palpitations. At the conclusion of the rapes, the defendant hog-tied the victim with her hands bound behind her back. The defendant then left and the victim was able to free herself and run to a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts for help. Worcester police officers responded and the victim was transported to the hospital where she underwent a rape kit. Seminal fluid was recovered from her vagina, rectum, and mouth, and hospital staff members observed bruises on her back, arms, wrists, and ankles. The victim’s fingerprints were found in the defendant’s parents’ apartment and the victim identified the defendant in a photo array. A Worcester County Grand Jury indicted the defendant for crimes including aggravated kidnapping and 11 counts of aggravated rape. The defendant pled guilty to every indictment and was sentenced to 35-60 years in prison for the aggravated rapes. Ten years later, he filed a motion to withdraw his guilty pleas. A superior court judge denied his motion and the Appeals Court affirmed.
There are a number of ways a rape charge can be increased to an aggravated rape charge. In this case, the theory of prosecution was that the rapes were committed during the commission of other enumerated crimes (kidnapping, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and burglary). The defendant’s primary appellate argument was that the 11 aggravated rape indictments were not supported by 11 separate predicate offenses. If there was not a separate predicate crime for each aggravated rape charge, argued the defendant, then some of the aggravated rape convictions should have been reduced to the lesser-included offense of rape. The Appeals Court disagreed and ruled the Legislature would not have intended to limit a defendant’s exposure in that way. The defendant here raped the victim at least 11 times while holding her against her will (which constituted a kidnapping). Applying the defendant’s argument, he should have been convicted of only one aggravated rape with the predicate kidnapping offense. The Court pointed out that the remaining rapes would have been no less harmful or terrifying to the victim, as each one was committed during the ongoing kidnapping. Therefore, one ongoing crime can qualify as a predicate offense for a series of aggravated rapes.
The defendant will not be parole eligible until he has served 35 years of his sentence.