A Lincoln County man sentenced last year to more than a decade behind bars for kidnapping and raping an ex-girlfriend in 2007 is one step closer to freedom after the North Carolina Court of Appeals overturned two of his convictions last month and is now waiting for the N.C. Supreme Court to decide whether it will review the case.
Five years ago, Lincoln County Sheriff’s deputies charged Wayne Anthony Huss, 38, of Goldrush Drive in Lincolnton, with first-degree kidnapping, second-degree sexual offense and second-degree rape of a woman, whom he met one year earlier in one of his martial arts classes at a local YMCA, according to court documents from the N.C. Court of Appeals.
Huss used a karate belt to bind the 25-year-old woman’s hands before removing her clothing and sexually assaulting her at his residence four months after they met, according to law enforcement sources quoted in a previous Times-News article.
The woman had gone to Huss’s residence to break up with him after dating for a brief period of time between January and May 2007, court documents said. Each party disputed the relationship’s exact length of time, Huss claiming the two dated a little more than three months, and the woman stating she dated Huss no more than four weeks, documents said.
In July 2011, a Lincoln County jury convicted Huss of all three felony counts. However, a judge arrested judgment on the rape charge, not unusual for a case of this nature, according to Lincoln County Asst. District Attorney and lead prosecutor Micah Sanderson.
He told the Times-News a defendant cannot be simultaneously convicted of rape and kidnapping.
“When you get the kidnapping conviction and the felony conviction for the rape as well, you have to arrest judgment on the rape,” he said. “The element of the kidnapping was for the commission of a felony. The felony within the kidnapping was the rape.”
Huss filed a Written Notice of Appeal roughly a week after he was sentenced, court documents said. According to the criminal appeals process listed on the N.C. Department of Justice website, a defendant can either orally appeal a conviction in court or in writing within two weeks of one’s sentencing.
The appellate court overturned Huss’s convictions because they disagreed with the state’s argument that the woman was physically helpless in the incident.
Sanderson called the debate over the definition of “physically helpless” a “big discrepancy with the Court of Appeals.”
Huss said in court documents the pair used bondage multiple times throughout their relationship; the victim denied such sexual behavior.
Following the appellate court’s decision, the N.C. Attorney General’s Office requested the N.C. Supreme Court review the case. Sanderson said the Court may take several months to determine a course of action, and if justices choose not to review the case, the appellate court’s decision will remain, resulting in Huss’s eventual release from prison.
Currently, Huss remains behind bars at Alexander Correctional Institute in Taylorsville.
He was sentenced to two consecutive terms of 71 to 95 months.
The Court of Appeals requested Huss stay in prison and its decision not be put into effect until the Supreme Court looks over the case, Sanderson said.
Such a practice is common in the judicial system.
“It’s extremely rare to actually let a person out of prison during this time,” he said.
Because of the appellate court’s decision to keep Huss in prison for the time being, the woman in the case is more at ease, Sanderson said.
“She was not pleased of the appeals court’s decision and is fearful of him,” Sanderson said. “She was concerned … mostly about whether he would be released.”
Huss’s mother, Mary Huss, told the Times-News she was shocked to hear her son’s “accuser” was apprehensive about his possible release.
“Wow,” she said.
Mary Huss pointed out how the woman never acted fearful of him, and even lived in the same town and worked alongside him at a Hickory gym, during the four years he was out on bond.
While Asst. Appellate Defender Daniel Shatz, of the Office of the Appellate Defender in Durham, is confident the appellate court made the correct decision, Sanderson said he and the woman think otherwise.
“I hope the Supreme Court will reverse that decision,” he said. “She (the woman) doesn’t want to have to go through a trial again.”
Shatz declined to give further details on the case.
“Because the case is still ongoing, I cannot comment further,” he said.
Since her son’s conviction, Mary Huss has established a support website, freeanthonyhuss.com.
In addition, friends and family of Huss organized a Justice March earlier this year in Gaston County to raise awareness about his situation. The group attempted a similar march in Lincoln County in September, but at the last minute, cancelled the event.