Stokes rejects plea deal

Attorney says he'll argue temporary insanity

Charged in priest's shooting

Suspect claims pastor sexually abused him

July 13, 2002|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

Dontee D. Stokes was temporarily insane May 13 when he shot the Rev. Maurice J. Blackwell and is not competent to stand trial, Stokes' attorney said yesterday.

Stokes' legal strategy was unveiled as he pleaded not guilty in Baltimore Circuit Court to attempted first-degree murder, and turned down a plea deal from prosecutors offering him a 25-year sentence, without chance of parole for the first five years.

Prosecutors did not immediately respond to defense attorney Warren A. Brown's assertion that Stokes, 26, is not criminally responsible for shooting Blackwell, 56, a Roman Catholic priest who Stokes says sexually molested him when he was a teen-ager. Two weeks ago, the state's attorney's office began an investigation of the sexual abuse allegations.

A trial date was set Oct. 21 for Stokes.

Brown said he wasn't sure whether Stokes' plea will force Blackwell to testify about the allegations.

"The state's going to have to make that decision," Brown said. "Quite frankly, they're going to lose whether they put him on or not. If they put him on, I will make him the second coming of Charles Manson. He's a child sexual predator, sodomizing little boys.

"If they don't put him on, then there's a glaring hole. Jurors will wonder, `Where is he? Why didn't they put him up there? Are they ashamed?' When was the last time that they had a case that they didn't put [on the stand] the victim [Blackwell] who is still alive?"

Brown, in documents mailed to the courthouse Wednesday, said that Stokes "suffered from a mental disorder and lacked substantial capacity of his conduct to conform to the requirements of the law" at the time of Blackwell's shooting.

The document also states that Stokes "is unable to understand the nature of the proceedings against him or to assist in his defense."

After the papers are filed at the court clerk's office, Brown said, a date will be set for Stokes to be evaluated for his competency to stand trial.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, said they weren't surprised by Stokes' refusal to accept their plea offer.

"They weren't going to accept anything," said Assistant State's Attorney Sylvester Cox.

Brown criticized the offer as "absurd, insulting and provocative."

"When we're refusing five years -- the five years without parole has been the whole hang-up -- why are we going to accept 25?" Brown asked. "There's no other shooting like this where they have come in asking for 25 years. They're pleading murder cases for less than that."

Blackwell could not be reached for comment.

Stokes is accused of shooting Blackwell three times in front of the priest's Reservoir Hill home.

He says Blackwell sexually assaulted him over a three-year period, and told police he shot Blackwell because he refused to apologize.

Outside the steps of Courthouse East, Stokes, flanked by his mother, aunts, other relatives and supporters, thanked the community for its support. He also encouraged abuse victims to come forward.

"I'm getting a lot of community support, but the only thing is, we need to deal with the situation realistically because it's an epidemic, more than just me," Stokes said.

"There are other people out there who have been victimized, have been abused by predatory people, and we just need to ask that you look at it seriously, and regardless of what happens to me, there are other people going through the same thing," he said.

Stokes added: "For the victims who are out there, I would just encourage them not to find themselves in my situation."

Asked how he was holding up, Stokes responded, "I'm doing the best I can."

Stokes' arraignment lasted fewer than five minutes. He sat quietly in the courtroom, dressed in a glen plaid suit, waiting for his chance to plead.

He left the courtroom immediately after entering his plea, with his mother, Tamara Stokes, and Brown.

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