In the 14 months since a 19-year-old was raped in her Potomac home, she and her family have sat through numerous court hearings: bond hearings, motions hearings, plea hearings, and eventually sentencing hearings.
Attending those hearings has meant, “listening to defense lawyers deny or excuse what has happened, powerless to speak out,” the victim’s mother said in a written statement.
John Kudel promised that his client’s sentencing would be different.
“WE’RE NOT going to do that today. We’re going to take responsibility today,” said Kudel, representing Daniel Smith, 19, in Montgomery County Circuit Court Dec. 15.
At the end of a four-hour hearing, Circuit Judge Eric M. Johnson sentenced Smith to a four-year prison term for his role in the Sept. 6, 2004 home invasion and burglary that preceded the rape and for a separate robbery of two teenage girls in Avenel on Sept. 5, 2004. Smith was not present for the rape and sexual assault, according to evidence presented in court.
Smith pleaded guilty Feb. 23 to three counts: first-degree burglary, conspiracy to commit first-degree burglary and accessory after the fact to robbery with a dangerous and deadly weapon.
Smith planned the Falls Chapel Way burglary after attending an unsupervised high school party at the house, according to court documents and testimony. He took a key to the house hoping to return to steal a laptop computer, and on Sept. 6 he and two other men entered the house and took the laptop and some CDs. Later that day, Smith led a group of five men back to the house but decided not to enter with the other four. It was during that home invasion that three men raped and sexually assaulted the 19-year-old woman.
Smith was also the driver for the Avenel robbery but did not actually rob the girls, according to the court statements.
SMITH WAS the first of the five defendants in the case to agree to assist the prosecution by testifying against his co-defendants, but undermined the prosecution’s case when he lied during a taped statement, according to Assistant State’s Attorney Deborah Armstrong, who has prosecuted all five of the defendants.
“The horrendous crimes that occurred to [the victim] and her family would not have occurred if Daniel Smith had not taken advantage of an innocent invitation into [their] home,” Armstrong wrote to the judge, referring to the party planned by the rape victim’s sister, who knew Smith through an extracurricular activity. “Smith … is the only one who knew the family he planned to victimize.”
Kudel said that Smith has changed tremendously in the 15 months since the crimes, participating in a work-service program, the Montgomery County Conservation Corps, and developing a new set of friends.
“I see an ability now that I didn’t see before to empathize,” said Kudel.
Kudel also called upon Gary Turner, the Montgomery County Police detective who investigated the rape case, to testify.
“I see something in Daniel that suggests that he is remorseful,” Turner said. “It became evident that Daniel realized that this was a terrible tragedy.”
SMITH FORMERLY lived in a county-subsidized house in Avenel with his mother, who works at the National Institutes of Health, five brothers and a half-sister. His father lives in Washington, D.C.
Smith attended Potomac Elementary, Herbert Hoover Middle School, and Winston Churchill High School, graduating in 2004.
He has been under house arrest since shortly after the crimes last year.
Smith’s mother, Evelyn Anderson, apologized to the rape victim’s mother, father, and sister in court Thursday.
“I stand here not to make any excuse,” Anderson said. She said that she had done her best with her sons, that theirs was a Christian family and that she had prayed constantly for the victims. “Please forgive me.”
The rape victim’s mother accepted Anderson's apology warmly and spoke softly when she addressed the court.
“She feels the burden of the consequences you guys are going to face,” the woman said of her daughter. “You’re inextricably linked now.”
SMITH ADDRESSED the family in court and also submitted a letter to Johnson.
"I can't describe in words how sorry I am and how much I wish I could do something to take back or change the situation," he wrote in the letter.
He faced a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison for the crimes he pleaded guilty to, but his sentencing guidelines — which take criminal record and other circumstances into account — called for a minimum sentence of supervised probation and a maximum of five years in prison.
Johnson spoke at length before issuing his sentence, but prefaced his remarks by telling Smith that the sentence would include a prison term.
“It cries out for that,” Johnson said, “And I don’t want you to sit there wondering.”
Johnson then said that sentencing is the most difficult part of his job and that cases like Smith’s are particularly trying. He did not find Smith to be a continuing threat to the community and said that he believed that Smith is well into the process of rehabilitation.
He then sentenced Smith to 10 years in prison for burglary and conspiracy to commit burglary and five years in prison for his accessory role in the robbery. Johnson suspended all but four years of the prison time for each count and ordered that the four-year sentences be served concurrently.
SMITH WILL BEGIN his prison time in the Maryland penitentiary system, but Johnson said he would reconsider the sentence and likely move Smith to the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in several months if Smith shows good conduct in prison.
Smith was also ordered to pay more than $3,000 in restitution to the families of the three victims and be placed in a supervised probation program for four years after he is released from prison.