ANNAPOLIS – An appellate court Wednesday cut 30 years off the 60-year prison sentence of Stephen Bruce Leak, the co- defendant in last year’s James Kowalski child sex abuse and pornography trial.
The Court of Special Appeals unanimously reversed Leak’s child abuse convictions, based on a similar ruling this month in Kowalski’s case.
In its earlier decision, the court said Kowalski did not meet the legal criteria for maintaining “responsibility for the supervision of a minor child,” said Gary Bair, chief of the attorney general’s Criminal Appeals Division.
But Bair said his office is appealing the Kowalski decision, and will petition the Court of Appeals in the Leak case to broaden the conditions under which one assumes legal responsibility for a minor.
The convictions resulted from activities during the summer of 1992 at Kowalski’s home on Queensbury Road in Hyattsville.
Kowalski had invited two boys to his house to eat pizza, play video games and watch TV. Later that day, he videotaped the boys, then 10 and 13, engaging in wrestling. He then asked them to dance, and asked one to take off his shorts.
When both children complied, Kowalski handed the camera to the older boy, who taped him engaging in oral sex with the younger victim, according to the court brief.
Leak, meanwhile, sat in a chair watching, and asked, “Is there enough light?” and whether the door was slightly ajar.
Leak’s attorneys argued that he did not directly participate in the filming or molest the boys. They also said that Leak’s 60- year sentence — the same given to Kowalski — was unduly harsh, and constituted “cruel and unusual punishment”.
“This is a classic case involving an emotionally charged issue that resulted in a jury verdict…based on bias and hostility,” the Leak brief said.
The Court of Special Appeals pared back the sentence, but upheld Leak’s convictions for child pornography and second-degree sexual offense.
The state’s brief had noted that when two or more persons participate in a criminal offense, each is responsible. It further argued that Leak’s statements encouraged and approved of the activity, making him equally liable.
Leak’s attorney was unavailable for comment. -30-