Priest stripped of powers is missing

Pastor accused of filing false report

April 04, 2002|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

A Roman Catholic priest who is accused of filing a false carjacking report to cover up a night with a male prostitute has been relieved of his priestly faculties and is missing from his Lansdowne parish.

The Rev. Steven P. Girard, 54, pastor of St. Clement I Catholic Church, has been missing since last week, when Baltimore County police charged him with making a false statement to a police officer after his story about a carjacking unraveled under police questioning.

Girard has been placed on leave and his priestly faculties suspended, said Raymond P. Kempisty, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Kempisty said church officials do not know where Girard is, but they have been contacted by his attorney. They know Girard spent the weekend at his house in Delaware, but were unable to reach him and believe he is avoiding them.

Parishioners were stunned by the allegations.

"I'm really shocked. I just didn't believe it," said Elizabeth Knox, a St. Clement's parishioner. "Father Steve was a very, very good man."

Baltimore County Councilman Stephen G. Samuel Moxley, who represents southwest Baltimore County, knows Girard as a cleric and community activist. Girard started an umbrella organization that provided a forum for community organizations, government agencies and businesses to work together, said Moxley.

"It's very upsetting," Moxley said. "I never knew him spiritually. I knew his involvement in the community and his constant working for the betterment of the southwest area."

According to court charging documents, Girard admitted lying to police investigators twice about having his car stolen to cover up the fact that he had picked up a male prostitute.

With all the stress lately in the Catholic Church, "I just wanted to have sex," Girard told police. "I don't do it often, but the stress."

Girard said he went to Mount Vernon on March 24 and picked up a man, Danny Earl Conyers, whom Girard told police he had also picked up a year earlier. Conyers was convicted of prostitution in 1999 and served a 30-day jail sentence.

He said he took Conyers to the Terrace Motel in the 6200 block of Washington Blvd. in Elkridge, because he "wanted to have sex," charging documents said.

Girard told police that at some point he gave Conyers the keys to his 2000 Daewoo Leganza, and Conyers never returned. What happened, according to charging documents, was that when Conyers left Girard at the motel, he drove back to Baltimore where he was arrested on an outstanding drug warrant after city police stopped him for a traffic violation.

Conyers gave police a different story of his night with Girard, according to charging documents. He said Girard picked him up, then the two went to an open-air drug market, where Girard gave him $60 to buy crack cocaine. They then went back to the St. Clement rectory, where they smoked the crack and drank alcohol, Conyers said.

Conyers also told police that Girard wanted to have sex, but didn't feel comfortable in the rectory and suggested they go to the Terrace Motel. They arrived shortly after midnight and smoked the last of the crack, Conyers said. Girard then gave Conyers more money and asked him to go out for more crack, according to charging documents. Conyers said he was arrested while on the errand.

Police said Girard called them March 25 and reported that a couple whom he had taken to a motel for temporary shelter had carjacked him when they stopped for gas at a service station. He later changed that story, saying he had been drinking that night when the couple came looking for shelter, police said. Girard told police he took the couple to the motel, and joined them in the room, where they drank more and he passed out. The next morning, the car was missing, he told police.

Girard is charged with a misdemeanor that carries up to a $500 fine and/or six months in jail if convicted.

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