2 more allege abuse by priest

Stokes' lawyer says men are credible

archdiocese produces proof of letters

May 22, 2002|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

A lawyer for the man accused of shooting the Rev. Maurice J. Blackwell said yesterday that at least two more people have come forward with new allegations that the Catholic priest abused them sexually decades ago, including at St. Mary's Seminary.

The disclosure, by attorney Joanne L. Suder, came as the Archdiocese of Baltimore produced evidence that the church reported a 1998 sexual-abuse allegation against Blackwell to authorities.

The city state's attorney's office, meanwhile, announced that police have opened an investigation into that case after receiving copies of letters outlining the victim's claims that church officials say they first sent 3 1/2 years ago.

Also yesterday, Dontee D. Stokes, the 26-year-old man charged with shooting Blackwell last week, hired another attorney, Warren A. Brown, to handle his criminal defense. Stokes' family say he shot the priest after confronting him over decade-old abuse allegations, which were never prosecuted.

Brown said at a news conference yesterday that he plans to ask a judge to relax Stokes' detention at a relative's home so that he can visit his doctors and his lawyer, and attend church.

Suder, representing Stokes in civil matters, said her office has received "a number of calls" in the past week from men claiming to be victims of Blackwell.

"At this point, I'm satisfied that at least two others are victims and potentially a third," she said.

The latest victim that Suder said contacted her office is a man in the Baltimore area who called her law firm this week and said he was abused by Blackwell in the early 1970s. At that time, the priest was a seminarian at St. Mary's Seminary and University in Roland Park, and the victim said Blackwell was operating a program there for underprivileged youth, the lawyer said.

Suder said lawyers in her firm have spoken with another man who she said appears to be credible, as well as a third man who was the victim in the 1998 allegations. His allegations resulted in Blackwell's removal as pastor from St. Edward Catholic Church in West Baltimore and his suspension as a priest.

In a September 1998 letter addressed to the state's attorney's office, archdiocesan officials say they met with the alleged victim. According to a source who has read the letter, the victim told them he was sexually abused by Blackwell for more than a decade, beginning in the late 1960s when he was in the fifth grade. He also told them that he had been abused at home by his father, his mother and his grandmother, who tied him and beat him with electric cords.

Because of his home situation, the youth began spending time with Blackwell, who was a seminarian at the time, the letter states. The victim told archdiocesan officials that he stayed overnight with Blackwell at St. Mary's Seminary, as well as at various rectories where the future priest was assigned.

The letter states that the victim told church officials there was a progression of sexual activity with Blackwell, from kissing to fondling, masturbation, oral sex and attempted anal sex. He said the sexual encounters continued with Blackwell until the victim was 26 years old.

A call to Blackwell's home was not returned. But the Rev. Robert F. Leavitt, rector of St. Mary's, said yesterday that he had no knowledge that Blackwell was either operating any kind of program for underprivileged youth or had any minors stay with him at the seminary overnight while he was a student.

"I have no remembrance at all of children living or staying at the seminary, least of all in seminarians' rooms," he said. "Had I or any faculty member or administrator at the time been aware of this alleged situation, it would have been addressed immediately. Maurice Blackwell would have been dismissed."

For the past several days, the state's attorney's office and archdiocesan officials have gone back and forth over whether the church notified civil authorities, as is required by law, when a second allegation against Blackwell came to light in fall 1998. On Friday, church officials faxed two letters outlining the abuse allegations to the state's attorney's office, one dated Sept. 17, 1998, and the other dated Oct. 9, 1998.

Yesterday, the archdiocese released edited copies of those letters - minus details of the allegations - along with internal notes and memorandums written by lawyers for the firm of Gallagher, Evelius & Jones, which represents the archdiocese, indicating that conversations about the case took place between church officials, police investigators and prosecutors.

The law firm released a page of notes taken by lawyer David W. Kinkopf in September 1998 indicating that he and the Rev. J. Bruce Jarboe, director of clergy personnel for the archdiocese, had discussed the allegations in a conference call with Emanuel Brown, the assistant state's attorney who handled sexual abuse cases at that time.

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