Former priest accused of '89 rape hires Schmoke to represent him

Ex-mayor longtime friend of Schwind's wife

May 11, 2002|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

The Rev. Thomas R. Schwind, the Catholic priest turned Pentecostal pastor who is facing a 13-year-old allegation of rape, has hired former Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke to represent him.

Schwind, 50, now pastor of the New Covenant Tabernacle in Jonestown, east of downtown, was accused Thursday by Rita Monahan, a former nun, of sexually assaulting her while she volunteered in 1989 at St. Ambrose Catholic Church, where Schwind was pastor.

Monahan, 53, of Chicago also contended at a news conference here that Cardinal William H. Keeler and the Archdiocese of Baltimore covered up the incident, an allegation church officials denied. At the time of the alleged incident, Keeler had not yet been elevated to the office of cardinal.

Baltimore police have opened an investigation, and Schmoke pledged that his client will cooperate.

"But he is just very firm in his conviction that he's being falsely accused and that he did not do the things Miss Monahan said," Schmoke said. "I just know he's been consistent in his story on this matter, that he absolutely denies the allegation.

"He firmly believes that once the matter is thoroughly investigated, that the authorities will agree with his assessment of this matter."

Schmoke, a partner with the law firm of Wilmer, Cutler and Pickering, is a longtime friend of Schwind's wife, Rosalind, who works in human services with the city's Department of Housing and Community Development. Schmoke also knew Schwind, who has a long history of community activism, when the former priest was pastor of St. Ambrose in Park Heights and St. Ann's in East Baltimore.

Schmoke said he has advised Schwind not to publicly discuss the accusation.

Joanne L. Suder, attorney for Monahan, said that "Schwind has a good attorney," but that the former mayor's confidence in his client is premature.

"I'm certain Kurt Schmoke will do a good job in representing him," she said. "But after being on the case for just several hours, Kurt Schmoke has had no time to do any investigation and determine anything."

Schmoke said he advised Schwind to continue his normal routine. Schwind is not scheduled to preach tomorrow because it is Mother's Day, and the women of the church will run the service, as is the congregation's tradition. But Schwind will be there.

Schwind has been active for at least a decade in Clergy United for the Renewal of East Baltimore, an influential minister's group.

Members of CURE expressed admiration for Schwind as well as concern over his predicament.

"He's done a tremendous job in the Jonestown area, reaching out to unchurched persons and bringing them into the church, making them feel welcome," said the Rev. Johnny N. Golden Sr., president of CURE and pastor of New Unity Baptist Church.

The Rev. Melvin Tuggle, pastor of Garden of Prayer Baptist Church and a former CURE president, said he found Schwind to be "a man of integrity."

"Certainly it comes as a shock to me and something I really don't believe," he said. "I believe him when he says he didn't do it."

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