Judge denies bail reduction for Caleb Womack, one of four suspects accused of raping UMass student in October
Caleb Womack, left, is taken from the courtroom after his arrignment Friday at Hampshire County Courthouse. JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »
NORTHAMPTON — A request for bail reduction by Caleb Womack, one of four men accused of gang-raping a University of Massachusetts freshman in October, was denied for a fourth time by a judge Thursday.
Womack’s request for an extension of his curfew to allow him to participate in a recreational basketball league was also denied. However, the judge granted a later curfew for him to attend a church youth group on Wednesdays.
Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Jennifer Suhl, who is prosecuting all four cases, said the $10,000 bail already posted in November was appropriate for Womack because he lives out of state and because of the seriousness of the charges and the potential penalties he faces if convicted.
Suhl told Hampshire Superior Court Judge Mary-Lou Rup that Womack, 18, of Windsor Locks, Conn., has been denied a reduction in bail at three other hearings since the arrest of all four suspects in October.
Womack faces three counts of aggravated rape, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Womack’s attorney, Jonah Goldsmith of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, asked Rup to consider a reduction to $5,000, saying it would ease some of the financial burden on the family caused by posting the full amount.
Goldsmith said $5,000 is still a significant amount of money for the family and would ensure Womack’s continued appearances at probation and court appointments.
Goldsmith said $5,000 “would be too much to lose for this family.”
He added that another consideration is that two of the other defendants, Adam Liccardi and Emmanuel Bile, had their bails reduced to $2,500 and $3,500, respectively.
The fourth defendant, Justin King, posted the original $10,000 bail, according to Goldsmith.
Suhl said each case has its own unique set of circumstances and the amount of one defendant’s bail should not bear on that of another.
Suhl argued that bail should be kept at $10,000 because Womack lives in Connecticut and, if he should disable the electronic monitor he’s required to wear as a release condition, or otherwise attempt to flee, it could several hours before local authorities would be able to secure an arrest warrant.
Suhl said the fact that Womack has been in compliance with his release conditions while free on the original bail is “a good sign that all of this is working.”
Part of Womack’s release conditions include a period of house arrest daily from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., when he must be at his family’s home. The lone exception allowed by Rup is an extension to 11 p.m. on Wednesdays to attend a church youth group.
Goldsmith said in court that Womack “adamantly” denies the charges, and that despite the “strange, bizarre and unusual” circumstances of the case, the sex between the UMass student and the men was consensual.
He argued that the woman attempted to extort money from the suspects by texting one of them and asking for $500 to ensure her silence.
Goldsmith said that the woman reported the incident to authorities only when that money was not paid.
Suhl said the woman’s request for money was a “safety tactic” to convince the suspects she was remaining silent while she contacted authorities.
Womack, along with Bile, King and Liccardi, all 18 and from Pittsfield, arrived at the UMass campus, although they were not invited by the woman, and bypassed dorm security to gain access to her room while she was away, authorities have said.
When the alleged victim returned, she agreed to “socialize” with the defendants and two other female friends, drinking vodka and smoking marijuana with them, according to court files.
Later, when the alleged victim was alone with the defendants, one of them turned out the light and the four allegedly attacked her, forcibly removed her clothes and took turns raping her for hours while she faded in and out of consciousness.
During that time, the woman used the words “no” and “stop,” according to Suhl.
Bile and King also face three counts of aggravated rape. Liccardi faces a fourth count for allegedly returning to the woman’s room and raping her again after the others had left.
All four suspects are due back in court March 19 for pre-trial hearings.
UMass has said it plans to hire a consultant during the spring semester to review its security procedures.
That consultant will “identify the strengths and any shortcomings of our current system,” UMass Police Chief John K. Horvath said in a statement. “An independent set of eyes will serve us well.”
Bob Dunn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.