ELLICOTT CITY, MD., AUG. 25 -- Former Howard County day care center operator Sandra A. Craig, who was convicted in April of physically and sexually abusing a 6-year-old girl, tonight lost her bid to be retried on those charges.
Circuit Court Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. rejected Craig's motion for a new trial, clearing the way for her sentencing on the six counts of child abuse of which a jury convicted her. Kane set a sentencing date of Sept. 21. Craig could be sentenced to up to life plus 85 years.
Craig's attorneys, William H. Murphy Jr. and M. Christina Gutierrez, said they planned to appeal.
Craig and her husband Michael, who had sat in the courtroom throughout a three-day hearing on the defense motion, said they were disappointed but not surprised by the judge's decision. Facing a swarm of reporters, the couple, who have maintained Sandra Craig's innocence since the first allegations were made last summer, appeared calm and flashed weary smiles.
"We're confident," Michael Craig said of his wife's chances for an acquittal upon appeal. "The truth should come out, and it will win."
In addition to her sentencing and appeal, Craig faces an October trial on charges of molesting 11 other children who were enrolled at the Clarksville day care center she owned until it was closed by the local health department last year.
Several parents of children who are scheduled to testify in the upcoming trial had anxiously awaited the outcome of Craig's motion for retrial. Tonight, they said they were relieved by Kane's ruling.
Murphy and Gutierrez had based their case for a new trial largely on two points: that state prosecutors and other officials had withheld from the defense information that could have been used to exonerate Craig, and that the attorney who represented her during the three-week trial was incompetent.
In issuing his opinion before a packed courtroom, Kane said he was not convinced that Craig's previous attorney, Fred Kolodner, was incompetent, and he said that he doubted that any evidence that has come to light since the trial would have affected its outcome.
"The law doesn't require perfection on part of counsel, only competence," he said. "I'm just satisfied quite simply that the jury's verdict was consistent with law."
During closing arguments, Murphy also suggested Craig be granted a new trial because the 6-year-old girl had made statements implicating Craig's son, Jamal, as her abuser. Jamal Craig, 17, has been charged with abusing three children who attended the center.
The state dropped one of those cases last month after the 7-year-old girl who was the subject of the trial did not qualify as a witness.
Murphy said the fact that Kolodner was representing both mother and son was a "conflict of interest" that had prevented the attorney from presenting information about Jamal Craig that could have been used in Sandra Craig's defense.
Assistant State's Attorney A. Gallatin Warfield III, one of two prosecutors who presented the case against Craig, vigorously objected to that argument, saying that the state had warned the Craigs about a possible conflict but that she had waived her right for a separate attorney. Judge Kane agreed.
At today's hearing, Murphy called Kolodner to the witness stand and questioned the defense lawyer on methods he had used in preparing Craig's defense. Kolodner said he had never tried to obtain certain records that have since been made available to Murphy, saying he had assumed that the prosecutors had given him all information to which he was entitled.