Priest gets 15-month sentence

He molested 2 boys in the '80s when he was a Westminster pastor

January 22, 2003|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

A suspended Carroll County priest was sentenced yesterday to 15 months in jail for molesting two boys during the early 1980s while he was an associate pastor of a Westminster parish.

The Rev. Brian M. Cox, 63, may apply to have his sentence modified to home detention after serving half that time, said Carroll Circuit Judge Michael M. Galloway.

Cox, who was associate pastor of St. John Roman Catholic Church in Westminster at the time of the crimes, told the judge he was "very sorry" for what he had done to the boys.

"I hurt them. ... I caused them a lot of pain," Cox said. "They trusted me and I broke that trust."

The judge imposed consecutive, four-year sentences for each of two convictions for child abuse, but suspended all but 15 months. Cox was ordered to report Friday to the Carroll County Detention Center, where he is to serve his sentence.

Upon his release, he is to be placed on five years' probation, with requirements to continue therapy and medication programs, register as a sex offender, have no unsupervised contact with minors and perform 1,000 hours of community service.

Carroll County Deputy State's Attorney Tracy A. Gilmore had asked for a six-year prison sentence, pointing out that each conviction carries a 15-year maximum term. But defense attorney Andrew Jay Graham said jail would serve no useful purpose, arguing that the crimes were isolated incidents more than two decades ago to be weighed against a life of service.

After leaving St. John, Cox founded the Resurrection Farm homeless shelter north of the city, which recently described plans to close. The Archdiocese of Baltimore placed him on permanent administrative leave and revoked his ability to administer sacraments or conduct Mass in 1995, after he admitted sexual misconduct with minors from 1979 to 1985, church officials have said.

About 30 people who knew Cox from the church, the farm or in counseling groups filled half of the historic courtroom in Westminster yesterday to show their support for him. About 200 wrote letters of support and 10 spoke in court on his behalf.

On the other side sat victim John F. Curran III. Curran, an 11-year-old altar boy in 1980 when he was fondled in the shower by Cox on swimming outings, is now 33, a vice president of sales in North Carolina who recently was recalled as a Navy reservist.

When Cox pleaded guilty in October to two counts of child abuse, Gilmore read from a transcript of taped conversations in which Cox apologized to Curran for hurting him and told him that he went to a bishop in 1984 and said he needed help.

In court yesterday, Curran complained that Cox's acts were premeditated. Later, in an interview, he said he wondered whether the supporters would entrust their children to Cox.

Curran said he stepped forward 10 months ago when he learned that Cox was free in the community and not in prison, as he had thought after the 1995 investigation. Curran said having a child - his 4-year-old daughter - motivated his actions.

Yesterday, Curran criticized his treatment by the church and called for Cardinal William H. Keeler to resign because "the commander's always responsible for the foot soldier's actions." He said he wrote the archdiocese for assistance to get Cox prosecuted but received no help.

During the hearing, Graham, the defense lawyer, said Cox had sought help from church officials but had been turned away.

Stephen J. Kearney, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, said any allegations by Cox, Curran or the attorneys that they asked for and did not receive help from the archdiocese are unfounded.

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