Sep. 14-LIMA - A probable-cause hearing for a Lima man charged with rape played out Monday against a backdrop of alleged witness-tampering.
Ronald Dillingham, 45, pleaded not guilty last week in Lima Municipal Court to a first-degree felony charge of rape. He returned to court Monday morning for an evidentiary hearing to determine if probable cause existed to bind the case over the common pleas court for presentation to a grand jury.
The morning hearing hit a snag, however, when Assistant Allen County Prosecuting Attorney John Willamowski Jr. alleged that members of Dillingham's family had made threats to the alleged victim, causing the woman to make herself unavailable to prosecutors and Crime Victim Services representatives who had previously been in "regular contact" with her. She was not able to be located Monday morning prior to the hearing. Magistrate Richard Warren continued the matter until mid-afternoon Monday to allow prosecutors time to find their witness.
The afternoon session proved problematic as well when the alleged victim took the witness stand but refused to answer questions. She began to cry and said repeatedly, "I don't want to do this."
After the woman declined to answer Willamowski's questions, Warren talked directly to the alleged victim.
"Are you scared?" he asked. She said she was.
"Well let me tell you something," the magistrate continued. "You are safe and you will be protected. And if anyone attempts to intimidate this witness they will be charged with a felony and they will be prosecuted."
Asked by Warren if she had received personal threats, the alleged victim replied she had not.
But when the woman continued to refuse to answer questions, Public Defender Carroll Creighton asked that the case against Dillingham be dismissed.
Warren allowed the case to be bound over to common pleas court based on earlier testimony from Allen County Sheriff's Office Detective Callie Basinger.
Basinger said that on the night of Sept. 2 she was called to a local hospital regarding a sexual assault. She testified that the alleged victim told her Dillingham, her former boyfriend, had struck her repeatedly, took nude photos of her against her will and then raped her.
The detective said that in interviews with Dillingham he admitted hitting the woman and taking photos of her. The sexual contact that evening, he reportedly told Basinger, was consensual.
Dillingham is currently being held in the Allen County jail on a $500,000 cash or surety bond.
The charge against Dillingham is a Tier 3 sex offense that carries a maximum prison term of 16 1/2 years.