An Arlington judge yesterday rejected a jury's recommended prison sentence for a Washington law student convicted of rape, ordered the man placed on probation and then wished him well from the bench.
In an emotional session, Circuit Court Judge Charles S. Russell turned aside the jury's recommendation that Pierre L. Kennedy, a 26-year-old student at the Antioch School of Law be sentenced to a six-year term for raping a classmate, at her South Arlington apartment in 1977.
The women testified that she resisted at first, then assisted her assailant in the act of sexual intercourse to "get it over with" after her screams and struggles proved to be of no avail.
The judge heard from a parade of witnesses, including Kennedy's mother, probation officer and classmates, as well as a personal plea from his lawyers, Gerald Lee and Joe Wiggs, all of whom vouched for Kennedy's character.
"I have come to the conculsion that he (Kennedy) is not a danger to society and never has been," Russell told the tense court room filled with Kennedy's supporters.
After calling Kennedy a "remarkable young man . . . who started out on the South Side of Chicago and ended up at Antioch Law School," Russell placed Kennedy on six years probation and told him he would be required to pay for the cost of the proceedings.
"i wish you success, Mr. Kennedy," Russell concluded. He said he would write a letter on Kennedy's behalf, if asked, to have him reinstated at law school. Kennedy has been in custody in the Arlington County jail since his conviction July 15 by an all-white jury of nine men and three women.
He judge was implicitly critical of the Virginia court system which requires juries to recommend a sentence knowing little about the convicted defendant's background.
Assistant prosecutor Helen Fahey argued that the jurors sentencing recommendation should be followed because they could have urged a lighter sentence. In Virginia, rape carries a sentence of five years to life in prison.
"The jury made no recommendation of this type," Fahey said, adding that a suspended sentence "says to the community that we do not have confidence in the jury's judgement."
Russell, however, said the jury "would have no way of knowing" of Kennedy's efforts to overcome social disadvantage through eduction.
The incident occurred in December, 1977, when the woman, who is white, invited Kennedy, who is black and a mutual male friend to her apartment before the three of them went out to celebrate her birthday. According to testimony, they shared a bottle of wine on the way to her apartment. On arriving there the woman went to her bedroom and called to the men to help her choose a dress to wear.
Within a few minutes, according to the woman's testimony, Kennedy reentered the bedroom in the nude. A struggle ensued in which her clothing was torn, she said. Weary of struggling and fearful the episode would "go on all night," the woman said she removed her clothes and helped kennedy have intercourse with her.
"I don't mean to be critical," Russell said yesterday, "but she might have acted more circumspectly."
Russell expressed concern that the case had caused divisions among Antioch sutdents and admonished those present in court to "take no reprisal against that young lady."
But the judge then said he thought the "conduct of the prosecuting witness led him (Kennedy) to believe that he would be received by her" and that "cultural differences" between Kennedy and the woman may have caused him "to misinterpret her signals."