Priest seeks lesser charges' dismissal

Statute of limitations up on 3 sex assault counts, Blackwell attorneys say

March 16, 2004|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

Lawyers for the Rev. Maurice Blackwell, the priest charged with sexually assaulting Dontee Stokes more than 15 years ago, filed motions yesterday asking that the majority of the charges against the clergyman be dropped because they are too old to prosecute.

Blackwell, who was shot by Stokes three times on a West Baltimore street in 2002, is charged with four counts of sexual child abuse and assault stemming from alleged incidents beginning in 1989 and ending in 1992.

The motions do not ask for the dismissal of the most serious charges, sodomy. However, the priest's lawyers argue that the statute of limitations has expired for three lesser charges of inappropriate touching.

The Baltimore state's attorney's office declined to comment on the pending case.

A hearing on pretrial motions in the case is scheduled Monday before Circuit Judge John M. Glynn, who will decide whether to throw out the lesser charges.

If convicted on all four counts, the Roman Catholic priest could be sentenced to up to 60 years in prison.

Stokes, a West Baltimore barber, was acquitted by a city jury in 2002 of attempted murder and other serious charges in the shooting of Blackwell.

Warren Brown, Stokes' lawyer, said the most important charge in Blackwell's case is the sodomy count, which has no time limit for prosecution.

"The charge [the defense lawyers] have no legal argument for is the most serious one," Brown said. "If Maurice Blackwell is convicted of that one, he's got a problem."

During Stokes' trial in 2002, Stokes testified that he shot Blackwell, the priest who baptized him, three times in the hand and hip with a .357 Magnum handgun.

He said Blackwell molested him when he was a teen-ager and that, at the time of the shooting, he was confronting the priest to find "reconciliation." In a police report, Stokes said he became angry when the priest pretended to ignore him that day.

Blackwell's lawyer, Kenneth W. Ravenell, argued in his motion to dismiss the three touching charges against the priest that those counts constitute a fourth-degree sex offense and cannot be prosecuted more than one year from the offense.

"The statute of limitations has long run," reads the defense motion.

Ravenell also contends that Stokes' accusations are imprecise. According to the filing, the priest is accused of molesting Stokes once as Stokes was about to receive communion, another time in the hallway of the rectory when he was in 10th grade and a third time, the date of which Stokes cannot recall.

"It is impossible for [Stokes] to recall specifically where he was when these incidents allegedly occurred and therefore impossible for [Blackwell] to find witnesses to specifically refute them," the motion reads.

Ravenell, who declined comment, goes on to argue in his motion that there has been "excessive" delay in charging Blackwell with the offenses because the allegations first surfaced in 1993. At the time, prosecutors investigated and declined to charge Blackwell.

Prosecutors charged Blackwell in May, saying that they had new information in the case. Most notably, Stokes told prosecutors for the first time that Blackwell tried to sodomize him when Stokes was 16 or 17.

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