By Jeffrey Collins
COLUMBIA, S.C. — A South Carolina woman claims in court documents that a Secret Service agent raped her on a couch in his office when she was arrested on embezzlement charges and warned her not to tell anyone if she didn't want to get into bigger trouble.
The court documents claim that the woman's defense attorney in the case ignored her allegations because he was a friend of the agent, and that the judge who sentenced her was never told of the accusations. The woman pleaded guilty in the case last year and is now asking a judge to toss out her 15-month prison sentence.
The woman said the agent coerced her into pleading guilty and told her she would get only probation, not prison time, if she did what he wanted after she was arrested in December 2009. The agent then physically and sexually abused her over the next eight months, never reporting her arrest during that time, according to legal papers filed by the woman's lawyer.
The Associated Press typically does not name alleged victims of sexual assault, and the woman asked through her attorney that she not be identified so she wouldn't have to answer questions in her small hometown before she reports to prison Tuesday.
The former bank manager lost a request Friday for an emergency 60-day reprieve to give her new lawyer time to build his case for a new sentencing hearing, or even to have her guilty plea tossed out. A date for a hearing to decide the matter has not been set.
"It's an outrageous abuse. The judge was bamboozled. He ended up sentencing someone without the full knowledge of what happened," said the woman's lawyer, Ray Mansolillo.
In their response, prosecutors called the woman's allegations "scurrilous" and wrote that they told Judge G. Ross Anderson Jr. everything they knew about the accusations. But the filing provided no details about exactly what the judge was told, and a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in South Carolina refused to expand on the filing.
Prosecutors also said the former bank manager had a chance to withdraw her plea but chose to instead move forward with sentencing.
But Mansolillo said the judge was never told about the allegations or that the woman testified before a grand jury about the agent. He also said the offer to withdraw her plea was a standard move, not a specific offer made because of the rape allegations.
The agent is not named in court papers and has not been charged criminally. Federal prosecutors refused to say if a criminal investigation of the agent is ongoing or if he has retained a lawyer. Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said that the agency is aware of the situation and that an internal investigation is taking place. He refused to say if the agent has been suspended.
Mansolillo took over the case after the woman said her public defender, David Plowden, refused to believe her rape accusations because he is friends with the agent and used to work with him. Plowden did not respond to messages left at his office by the AP.
Investigators said the woman stole $90,000 from the bank she managed over about a year to pay her bills, first taking money from the cash drawer, then attempted to fool auditors by forging withdrawal slips to steal from customers' bank accounts.
The scheme ended in December 2009 when the Secret Service agent arrested her.
According to Mansolillo, the agent brought the woman to the Secret Service's Greenville office and told her he needed to take her mug shot and fingerprints. He then raped her, and after the assault sat naked on a sofa except for a gun strapped to his ankle. He told her if he got in trouble, he would make sure she got in even more trouble.
Then, instead of letting the court system know about the arrest, Mansolillo said the agent told her she didn't need an attorney and would be sentenced only to probation if she did what he wanted. Mansolillo said the agent then lied about the date she was taken into custody.
"It was a process of physical and emotional abuse over the next eight months," said Mansolillo, who didn't further detail the allegations in court papers or in an interview with the AP.
The woman didn't immediately report the rape or the agent's hiding of her arrest to anyone else because she was scared. But sometime between pleading guilty in October 2010 and being sentenced in July 2011, the woman told her father, who was a former law officer. A friend in the FBI connected them with Mansolillo, who specializes in cases involving civil rights.
In their response to Mansolillo's request to delay the woman's prison date, prosecutors said Mansolillo never talked to Plowden or reviewed the sentencing hearing transcript. Mansolillo said that he is waiting for the transcript to be sent to him and that Plowden never returned his message.
"I don't even want to speak to him now," Mansolillo said.
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Copyright 2011 Associated Press