Advertisement

Rathbun Was Acquitted of Rape in 1980 Ohio Trial

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Charles E. Rathbun, the photographer suspected of murdering model Linda Sobek, was accused of raping an Ohio woman in 1979 but was acquitted after his lawyer argued that it was a consensual act and that his client’s initial statement was illegally obtained, according to interviews and court records.

Rathbun was accused of luring the 21-year-old married woman into his apartment by promising to show her photos that he had taken, Ohio police records show. Rathbun worked with the woman at a grocery store and told her that he needed a ride home because he had a flat tire, according to the records.

Rathbun pleaded not guilty Monday in Torrance Superior Court to charges of murdering Sobek, 27, a calendar model and former Raiders cheerleader whose body was found in a shallow grave in Angeles National Forest.

Rathbun, 38, a Hollywood resident, was raised in Ohio and graduated from Ohio State University. His attorney, Mark J. Werksman, said the alleged Ohio rape was “ancient history” that has no bearing on the Sobek case.

Advertisement

“He was acquitted of the charges,” Werksman said.

In the Ohio case, Rathbun allegedly attacked the woman inside his apartment on June 14, 1979, according to a Columbus Police Department report.

After arriving at his apartment shortly after midnight, the records show, Rathbun, then 21, invited the woman inside to see some photos.

“She has an interest in photography,” the documents state. “She went with him and looked [at the photos].”

Advertisement

Once inside, according to the police report, Rathbun allegedly jumped on the woman.

“He forced her to the floor, removed all her clothing, told her he didn’t want to hurt her but would kill her if she made any noise,” the report says. "[Rathbun] said if she would let him do what he wanted to do he would let her go.”

Afterward, the report says, Rathbun told the woman to get dressed and walked her outside, where she tried to run away.

“She fell to the ground screaming,” according to the police report. "[Rathbun] put his hand over [her] mouth, told her to calm down.”

Advertisement

Rathbun then confessed to the woman that he was “sick,” the police records state.

“He asked her why she thought he did it, and he told her he wanted to be punished for what he had done,” according to the report. “He told her he was very lonely. [He] said he has told people he was sick, but no one would believe him.”

Although Rathbun’s case file in the Court of Common Pleas in Franklin County was sealed after he was acquitted in 1980, a copy obtained by The Times shows that the verdict was delivered by Common Pleas Judge Paul P. Martin on Feb. 12, 1980.

Rathbun’s attorney, the file shows, attempted to have his client’s initial statement suppressed because police allegedly obtained it without letting him consult a lawyer.

Advertisement

Rathbun’s attorney charged that police engaged in “misrepresentations” by telling his client that there were no public defenders available when he volunteered to give his statement.

The court file does not say what Rathbun told police. Nor does it say whether the judge agreed to suppress the statement.

Rathbun’s attorney at the time, Steven D. Rowe, said Monday that the judge apparently found his client more credible. Rowe said he argued that the woman had consented.

“Charlie [Rathbun] didn’t take the 5th Amendment. He testified in his trial,” Rowe said. “Judge Martin heard both Charlie and his accuser and found Charlie innocent.”

Advertisement

Correspondents Greg Sowinski and Randal Oliver contributed to this report.


Advertisement
Advertisement