Rape charge against doctor rocked the community
By Greg Peak
It was on a cool Wednesday morning in November 1989 when the Livingston community was rocked with the news that a prominent member of its medical community had been arrested in connection with the rape of a 37-year-old Vidor woman.
That day, Dr. William Chester “Bill” Ingram, 41, had been booked into the Polk County Jail and was later released after posting a $25,000 bond on a sexual assault charge.
The arrest occurred on Nov. 8, 1989 after the victim, a pharmaceutical sales representative, pounded on the door of a residence near Ingram’s rural home near Livingston at about 2 a.m. Described as being “in hysterics,” the woman was totally nude and complaining that she had been repeatedly raped.
Ingram was taken into custody later that morning by the Polk County Sheriff’s department, launching a legal battle that would last for the next two decades as the case wound first through the trial stage and then appeal.
The trial, which began in May 1991, was moved to Houston due to Ingram’s prominence in Polk County as well as the pre-trial publicity the case attracted. State District Judge John Martin selected his alma mater, the South Texas School of Law, as the location for the proceeding after granting Ingram’s change of venue request.
When the case went to trial, the charge of sexual assault had been replaced with aggravated kidnapping, which combined the sexual assault with a claim that the victim was held against her will at Ingram’s home.
The case pitted widely-known defense attorney Dick DeGuerin, a protégé of Percy Foreman, against special prosecutor Jan Krocker, who would later be elected as a criminal district judge in Harris County.
During the trial, the defense conceded Ingram and the woman had sexual relations at his home, but argued that it was consensual. DeGuerin told the jury it was only after the woman became concerned her husband might learn of the affair that she panicked and claimed rape.
According to testimony during the trial, the woman had called upon Ingram at his office at about 5 p.m. on Nov. 7, 1989 to discuss the over-the-counter drugs sold by her company, McNeil Consumer Products. When Ingram invited her to dinner, the woman said she agreed, hoping to further develop a professional relationship with the doctor.
The testimony indicated that when Ingram arrived at her motel to pick her up, he said he was just returning from a racquetball match and wanted to go to his home located just outside of Livingston to clean up and change.
Once at his home, the two agreed to eat supper there rather than go out, but when the woman began to feel uncomfortable and asked to be taken back to her motel, things changed. She told the jury that Ingram attacked her, drug her to his bedroom and literally pulled her clothing off her.
While she tried to fight back, the doctor overpowered her and, according to her testimony, he repeatedly raped her over the next five hours. It was only after he fell asleep that she was able to slip away from him, climb over a fence and run to a neighbor’s house for help.
During the trial, which lasted about three weeks, a total of 42 witnesses testified and more than 200 exhibits were admitted into evidence.
On June 5, 1991, the seven-man, five-woman jury deliberated for only three hours before finding Ingram guilty on an aggravated kidnapping charge. Because Ingram had asked that the judge impose the punishment should he be convicted, sentencing was delayed while a pre-sentencing investigation was conducted by the probation department.
Martin would later hand down a 40-year prison term, of which Ingram would serve 24 before being paroled and released from custody in 2016.
Although it was not mentioned during his 1991 trial, the doctor had also been indicted by a Harris County grand jury in April 1991 in connection with a March 1988 incident involving the abduction and attempted rape of another woman in Houston. The district attorney in that case elected not to prosecute Ingram because he was convicted and sentenced to prison in the Polk County abduction and rape case.
After the appeal of his conviction in the Polk County case was rejected, Ingram continued the appeal process seeking to have the Harris County indictment removed from his record. The appeals court in their 2011 ruling also rejected that request.
Texas Rape Shield Law
In this episode, we mentioned the Rape Shield Law, but didn’t explain it well. Here’s take two (courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Resource Service):
Unlike the prior Texas statute, Rule 412 prohibits the use of either reputation or opinion evidence of an alleged rape victim’s past sexual behavior. In addition, Rule 412 includes the crimes of attempted sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault under the rape shield provision. The prior statute did not specifically address attempted rape. The prior statute permitted the use of evidence of specific instances of an alleged victim’s past sexual behavior. Rule 412 prohibits the use of such evidence unless it meets three criteria. Rule 412 also creates a presumption that an alleged rape victim’s past sexual conduct is not admissible unless it meets certain exceptions.