Stokes pleads guilty to handgun violations

Man who shot priest given time served in '02 charge

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

More than two years after shooting his former priest, Dontee D. Stokes' legal saga ended yesterday as the West Baltimore barber pleaded guilty to handgun violations and was sentenced to 18 months he has already served on home detention.

Stokes, 28, was acquitted by a jury of attempted murder charges in the 2002 wounding of the Rev. Maurice J. Blackwell, who Stokes said molested him as a teenager.

But he was convicted of three minor handgun violations, a conviction that was overturned by the Maryland Court of Appeals, then reinstated with his plea yesterday.

"I am thankful for the support of the community and the support of other victims," Stokes said after his hearing. "My life is in a pause waiting for the trial of Maurice Blackwell."

Blackwell, who baptized Stokes as a child, is scheduled to go on trial Aug. 30 on charges that he molested Stokes more than a decade ago. Blackwell has denied the allegations.

Stokes pleaded guilty to carrying a handgun, transporting it in a vehicle and discharging it within city limits. Because of his plea, Stokes will be prohibited from owning or carrying a firearm.

Prosecutors said one of their main goals in prosecuting Stokes on the handgun charges after his acquittal on the more serious charges was to prevent him from owning or carrying a gun.

Stokes said that his crime and the ensuing legal turns and news media attention have been "very freeing."

"Things have come to the forefront about what hes done," Stokes said about Blackwell.

Stokes lawyer, Warren A. Brown, declared his client a totally free man yesterday.

"We are putting the entire matter to rest," Brown said. "We will not have the state of Maryland interfering in his life."

Blackwell was shot May 13, 2002, when Stokes drove to the priests Reservoir Hill home and fired at him after briefly confronting him about abuse that he said had occurred a decade earlier. Blackwell lost part of his hand and suffered hip injuries.

Maryland's highest court overturned Stoke's handgun convictions this year, ruling that the trial judge erred in allowing too many jurors to deliberate during the case.

In its decision, the court said that Circuit Judge John N. Prevas should not have allowed four alternate jurors to deliberate with the rest of the jury panel.

Prevas said during the trial that he did not dismiss the alternate jurors because the case had a wrinkle: Stokes lawyer asked that Stokes be found not criminally responsible.

That meant that the case was broken into two parts. In the first phase, the jury had to decide whether to convict Stokes. In the second, it had to determine whether he was criminally responsible.

Prevas allowed the alternates to deliberate with the jury for a few hours, then told the alternates that they should remain in the room but not offer comment.

Alternate jurors serve as backups in case one of the 12 members of the jury panel becomes ill or cannot continue for some other reason.

Prevas said then that he did not want to dismiss any jurors during the first phase in case he needed them for the second.

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