Todd A. Witte, the Gaithersburg man who made vulgar and violent threats to a former co-worker in Northwest Washington, pleaded guilty yesterday in D.C. Superior Court to a pair of misdemeanors.
If Judge Stephen G. Milliken accepts the terms of a plea bargain reached with the victim's assent, Witte would spend about two months in jail, followed by a period of private mental health treatment.
Witte would be forbidden to contact the woman or her sister during five years' probation, under penalty of further jail time. As Milliken carefully recited the terms, he told the 27-year-old defendant, "The spirit of what I'm reading is these two women don't exist for you."
The judge warned Witte that if he violates the terms of his probation, "I'm going to take you out for every second I can give you."
The misdemeanor charges of stalking and threats are punishable by a maximum of 18 months behind bars, but Milliken warned that a violation could generate a contempt of court prosecution as well. Witte will remain in jail until Milliken sentences him Dec. 17.
Witte surrendered to police on a felony threats charge in October, one day after the Washington City Paper published his former co-worker's 13,000-word account of her ordeal.
Witte, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, said little during yesterday's hearing. The most dramatic words were plucked from Witte's tape-recorded threats to kill the woman and her sister.
To his former co-worker, who used the pseudonym "Theresa" in the October article, he mentioned last year's shootings of two police officers at the U.S. Capitol and a gunman's attack on a Los Angeles day-care center. He threatened to beat her, rape her and throw her around the room.
"Maybe I'll just wait and shoot you in the face or something," Witte said. "I'm going to do what I want, when I want."
The 30-year-old woman said she hardly knew Witte in 1995 when he worked for three weeks at a downtown bookstore. He harassed her intermittently for four years. She grew frustrated when police seemed slow to act.
"It's just awful. You get used to being terrified all the time," she said in an interview last month.
In the interview, the woman described "this horrible feeling you have from the moment you get up to the moment you go to bed. He's infiltrated every cell of your body. You think at any moment, you're going to be attacked. It almost turns you into an animal that feels the need to defend itself."
The Washington Post withheld her name because she agreed to be interviewed on condition of anonymity.
Jeffrey Witte, an orthopedic surgeon, sat behind his son during the lengthy hearing, then asked if he could address Milliken. He told the judge that Todd Witte has a "treatable" mental condition that typically starts in adolescence and "has a tendency to burn itself out."
Marijuana use can "flip" him into a psychotic episode, said Jeffrey Witte, who did not name the condition. When Todd Witte threatened the women in August, he was "in the midst of a psychosis" that came and went virtually overnight, his father said.