- The Washington Times - Monday, January 10, 2000

The Montgomery County, Md., judge who provoked outrage for suggesting that an 11-year-old girl was partly to blame for being sexually molested has retreated from some of his language but makes no apologies for what he said.

Circuit Court Judge Durke G. Thompson raised the ire of child advocates and prosecutors when he told the girl's parents that it "takes two to tango" as he sentenced Vladimir Chacon-Bonilla, 24, to serve 18 months in jail and three years probation for a second-degree sex offense.

"I'm sorry I used the terms," Judge Thompson told The Washington Times yesterday. "If I had to do it over again surely I wouldn't use those terms again because people would misunderstand what I said."

In a statement on Friday, Judge Thompson said, "I regret if these words have caused concern and confusion over the seriousness and gravity with which I treated this matter."

But he said his comments were made in terms of "family relations" and that parents should be more aware of their children's conduct.

Prosecutors said the girl told police that she had sexual relations with Chacon-Bonilla, whom she met on the Internet, but the defense contended that the two did not have sex. Judge Thompson said that, because the verdict came through a plea agreement and not a trial, he could not clearly determine the facts.

"I abhor this crime. I [imposed] a stronger penalty than was recommended to me," Judge Thompson said.

The Department of Parole and Probation recommended a sentence of five years in prison with all but one year suspended, he said.

State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler said last week the sentence was "more appropriate for a shoplifter" and that saying the girl was partly to blame was inappropriate.

"Hopefully he doesn't think those things and no judge thinks those things," Mr. Gansler said yesterday, adding that he doesn't believe there will be future friction between the judge and the prosecutor's office.

"He'll be out of jail in six months at the longest," Mr. Gansler said of Chacon-Bonilla, a native of El Salvador who has spent most of his life in the United States and served in the U.S. Marines.

Chacon-Bonilla could be deported for the felony conviction.

"In this case, there was an added consideration," said Judge Thompson, 57, who weighed the possibility of deportation. "That is certainly a severe penalty he faces."

Under Maryland law, people sentenced to 18 months or less serve their time in a local jail, instead of a state prison. The Montgomery County Detention Center in Rockville has better services and more successful programs that can help Chacon-Bonilla, which would better serve the public, Judge Thompson said.

"The sentence I imposed was very appropriate for the circumstances," Judge Thompson said.

The maximum sentence is 20 years in prison.

Judge Thompson said in his statement that Mr. Gansler took his comments out of context and failed to note the parole office recommendation.

"I think the old adage that it takes two to tango is true here," Judge Thompson said at the sentencing, noting that the pre-teen girl invited Chacon-Bonilla, of Alexandria, Va., to her home after meeting him on the Internet.

Chacon-Bonilla testified that the girl claimed to be 18 when he became acquainted with her on the Internet last spring. He said he did not know her true age until her mother screamed "she's only 11" upon discovering him in the girl's bedroom at 3 a.m. last July 23.

On Friday, Judge Thompson removed himself from the case.

"I don't like to recuse myself from cases," Judge Thompson said yesterday. "Because of the storm over this, my effectiveness [as a judge in the case] was destroyed."

While still the presiding judge, Judge Thompson said last week he could not speak publicly about his decision. Since recusing himself, however, he wanted his feelings known.

"I think it took courage," Mr. Gansler said of Judge Thompson's decision. "He's a man of much respect on the bench … and I think he realizes his comments were inappropriate."

The county's National Organization for Women chapter said Friday that it has asked the state Commission on Judicial Disabilities to investigate the judge's previous cases and said he should be removed from the bench.

This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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