Priest receives probation for false carjacking report

Ex-pastor lied to cover up his night with prostitute

August 09, 2002|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

With a group of supporters seated behind him, a Roman Catholic priest was sentenced to one year of supervised probation yesterday after he admitted in Catonsville District Court that he filed a false carjacking report to cover up a night spent with a male prostitute.

The Rev. Steven P. Girard, former pastor of St. Clement I Catholic Church, also was ordered to complete treatment at a Catholic psychiatric facility in Silver Spring as a condition of being granted probation before judgment by Judge John H. Garmer.

Girard's trial was attended by about 10 supporters and parishioners from the 2,000-member Lansdowne church, where he worked for 15 years before he was forced to resign this year.

"He's been missed terribly at the church," said Sharon Ellis, a parishioner and a community supervisor for the Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks.

Ellis credited Girard with helping the homeless, battered women and unwed mothers and setting up a network of community and business leaders to address the social ills that trouble the blue-collar community where the church is based.

"He never asked for anything for himself. He was always thinking of others," Ellis said.

Assistant State's Attorney Michael S. Fuller read a statement of facts summarizing the case to Garmer that was not disputed by Girard or his lawyer, Arnold M. Zerwitz.

In the statement, Fuller said Girard lied twice to police about the theft of his 2000 Daewoo Leganza on March 25 after a male prostitute drove off with it from an Elkridge motel where they had spent the night.

Girard initially told police that a homeless couple had come to the rectory, that he agreed to drive them to a motel and that they carjacked his vehicle when he stopped for gas at an Exxon station on Hammonds Ferry Road, Fuller said.

But a station surveillance tape showed his car never stopped there, Fuller said.

Girard then told police he spent the night drinking with the homeless couple after driving them to the Terrace Motel in the 6200 block of Washington Blvd. in Elkridge. Girard said that he passed out and they stole his car, Fuller said.

But county police discounted that story when they learned that city police had stopped Danny Earl Conyers for a traffic violation driving Girard's car in the 4600 block of Eastern Ave., a few hours after Girard had checked into the hotel, Fuller said in the statement.

Girard later admitted that he picked up Conyers, 35, on Howard Street and took him to the motel for sex, Fuller said.

In charging documents, Girard also admitted that he had picked up Conyers for sex a year earlier.

Charging documents show that Conyers, who had been convicted of prostitution in 1999, also told police that Girard gave him $60 to buy crack cocaine in Baltimore and they smoked it together at the rectory before going to the motel.

Girard was never charged with any drug violations. He was charged with filing a false report, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum $500 fine and six months in jail.

Before sentencing, Girard told Garmer that he plans to complete a 30- to 90-day course of inpatient treatment at St. Luke's Institute, a psychiatric facility for priests in Silver Spring. Garmer made the treatment a condition of probation.

Stephen Kearney, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said Girard was forced to resign as pastor after he was charged.

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