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Jury deliberating in case of man charged with rape and impersonating officer

April 20, 2010|By DON AINES

HAGERSTOWN --A jury began deliberations Tuesday in Washington County Circuit Court in the case of a Frederick, Md., man charged with rape and impersonating a police officer in a 2009 incident in Hagerstown.

Michael Allen Barnwell, 37, is charged with sexually assaulting a woman at about 4 a.m. on Feb. 23, 2009, in a downtown parking lot near the intersection of Potomac and Franklin streets, Assistant State's Attorney Gina Cirincion said Tuesday during her opening statement in court.

The woman was stopped at the intersection when a man in a dark sport utility vehicle pulled alongside her and motioned for her to pull off the street, Cirincion said.

"I'm a cop and I'm going to give you a ticket," the woman testified the man told her, answering questions with the assistance of a Cantonese interpreter. Once she pulled into the parking lot, the man ordered her into his vehicle, then drove to a remote part of the lot, where he assaulted her, she testified.

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"I was afraid he was going to point a gun at me," the woman testified.

On cross-examination by defense attorney Mary Drawbaugh, the woman said the man wore no uniform, the vehicle he was driving was not equipped with emergency lights or a siren, and she never saw a weapon.

The 50-year-old woman testified she believed the man was an undercover police officer. The man took $100 from her before driving away, she testified.

The woman testified she picked Barnwell out of a photo lineup that included five other men. She also pointed to him in the courtroom and identified him as the assailant.

Drawbaugh told the jury that the woman originally told police her assailant had short hair and no facial hair. Barnwell on Tuesday had a mustache and shaved head.

The woman did not immediately report the incident to police, according to her daughter's testimony. The daughter testified she contacted police the following day, at which time her mother was interviewed and underwent a physical examination.

Hagerstown Police Detective Christopher Kayser testified he had been trying to track down the vehicle used in the incident using the victim's description of it, the three numbers from the license plate she provided and surveillance videos from the area where the alleged assault occurred. He testified the vehicle likely was a Pontiac Torrent.

Kayser's efforts focused mostly on records for vehicles in Washington County, but police also checked with dealerships that sold Torrents in adjoining counties in Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, he testified.

Barnwell was taken into custody April 4, Kayser testified. At the time, Barnwell was driving a black sport utility vehicle registered to his girlfriend, Taunia Harper of Frederick, Kayser testified.

Harper testified she "rarely" allowed Barnwell to drive her Torrent, saying he sometimes took it to be serviced. Harper testified that she came to Hagerstown looking for Barnwell and the vehicle after he failed to return home the morning of April 4 and was able to find the Torrent, which police were inspecting at the time.

In her opening statement, Drawbaugh said Barnwell was the victim of a "misidentification." In her closing argument, she said police had only a "generic description" of the assailant and the vehicle, and failed to check records for similar vehicles in other states.

Cirincion and Drawbaugh both told the jury there was no DNA, hair or other physical evidence in the vehicle linking Barnwell to the assault.

The jury is set to resume deliberations this morning.

Barnwell currently is serving a prison sentence at Maryland Correctional Institution on an unrelated conviction.

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