Severn Man Receives 60 Years in Prison for Sex Abuse of a Minor, First Time Comfort Dog Used During Trial in State of Maryland
ANNAPOLIS, MD - James Robert IV, 38, of Severn was sentenced to 60 years for sex abuse of a minor and four counts of rape announced Anne Arundel County State's Attorney Anne Colt Leitess. This is the first case in the State of Maryland where a comfort dog accompanied a victim when testifying during a trial.
Robert was found guilty of the charges by a jury on November 7, 2019.
"This sentence sends a profound message that we will hold accountable sexual offenders who prey upon the most vulnerable members of our community,” said Anne Arundel County State's Attorney Anne Colt Leitess. “I would like to thank Caring Canines for providing the animals who played an important role in the healing process. The addition of the comfort dog provided the young victim with a level of support that allowed her to speak about the heinous abuse she experienced and hold her abuser accountable. I hope the outcome provides her with a sense of solace as she continues to heal.”
Assistant State's Attorney Mary-Ann Burkhart prosecuted the case on behalf of the citizens of Anne Arundel County.
On November 15, 2018, the Anne Arundel County Police Department responded to the 1700 block of Carriage Court to conduct a well-being check after receiving a tip from a sexual assault tip line. The tip stated that the defendant, later identified as James Robert IV, had raped the survivor. On November 20, 2018, the Anne Arundel County Police Department and the Anne Arundel County Department of Social Services interviewed the survivor who revealed that the defendant raped her on four separate occasions and threatened to kill her. During one incident, she advised that he choked her and only stopped after she told him she was unable to breathe.
During the trial, the survivor testified with the aid of a comfort dog from Caring Canines. The dog and handler were trained and certified through PetPartners.org to provide interventions and emotional support for victims of trauma. In 2018, Anne Arundel County and Harford County Circuit Courts became part of a pilot program allowing the use of comfort animals in the courthouse. The program was launched with the support of Administrative Judge Laura Ripken who considers written requests made on behalf of children who appear in either civil or criminal proceedings.
The Honorable Stacy W. McCormack presided over the case.