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Man Freed by Judge Who Calls Rape Victim ‘Pitiful Woman’

September 22, 1990

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) _ Gov. Bob Martinez has called for the resignation of a a judge who freed a man who pleaded guilty to rape and called the victim ″a pitiful woman.″

Martinez said Friday he found the comments of Circuit Judge Kenneth Leffler a ″gross injustice.″

Leffler rejected a plea agreement calling for Mark Edward McCulloch to serve 4 1/2 years in prison and 10 years on probation.

″I just have a hard time laying all the blame on him,″ Leffler said of McCulloch. ″I don’t see how he could take up with her. She was such a pitiful woman.″

Assistant State Attorney Michele Heller, who prosecuted the case, said the judge’s impression of the woman is not a sufficient legal reason for ignoring state sentencing guidelines, which called for prison time for McCulloch.

Leffler put McCulloch on probation for two years.

″It is probably the most blatant example of prejudice and stereotyping against women I have seen ... but unfortunately, it is not isolated,″ said Patricia Ireland, national executive vice president for the National Organization for Women and a former Miami lawyer.

The 40-year-old woman, who was not publicly identified, told The Orlando Sentinel in a story published today that she didn’t deserve such treatment from the judge.

″I’m not perfect. I’m not,″ she said. ″But I’m a good person and nobody deserves to be raped.″

Prosecutor Norm Wolfinger said Leffler’s bias was obvious and that prosecutors will ask Leffler to withdraw from the case, then seek a new sentencing before another judge.

If that fails, they will appeal the case, Wolfinger said.

Chief Circuit Judge O.H. Eaton Jr. said he spoke briefly with Leffler on Friday, but Leffler did not say whether he would resign. Eaton said he would examine a transcript of the hearing next week after he returns from a conference in Tallahassee and decide whether to take action.

Leffler, 62, is retiring in December after 15 years on the bench.

The judge, reached at his Winter Springs home late Friday, would not comment.

At Thursday’s sentencing hearing, Leffler freed McCulloch, 36, from jail, where he has been held since his April 10 arrest, a day after the alleged rape.

Leffler explained he was familiar with the woman from a divorce case he handled several years ago. He sided with her then but said Thursday he believed there was more to the rape story than met the eye.

Court spectators laughed when the judge told McCulloch to be more careful in choosing women. In part, Leffler said, McCulloch had been victimized by her, just as he said her former husband had been.

The ex-husband’s attorney, Ken Morse, said he agrees with Leffler’s assessment of the woman. He said she is a good actress and manipulates men to get what she wants.

The woman told sheriff’s investigators she met McCulloch two years ago and rented him a room in her home. On April 9, she said he became angry because she was dating another man, beat and raped her and would not let her call for help.

After his arrest, McCulloch told detectives the woman started the fight. He said he struggled with her, then raped her. He told them his memory was sketchy because he was under the influence of drugs at the time.

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