`Other victims' of Blackwell alleged

Jury told to disregard part of officers' testimony during sex-abuse trial

February 15, 2005|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Two Baltimore detectives who testified yesterday in the child molestation trial of Maurice Blackwell referred to "other victims" of the defrocked priest, statements the judge quickly told the jury to disregard.

Blackwell, 58, is charged with four counts of sexual child abuse for allegedly molesting Dontee Stokes, a one-time altar boy at St. Edward Catholic Church in West Baltimore who later shot Blackwell. Now 29, Stokes was acquitted of attempted murder more than two years ago.

The second day of testimony in Blackwell's trial included four prosecution witnesses, all of whom made statements that drew admonishments from Baltimore Circuit Judge Stuart R. Berger. Defense attorney Kenneth W. Ravenell made three requests for a mistrial, which Berger denied.

Ravenell said he feared that the detectives' testimony -- that police had talked to other people Blackwell might have abused -- would have an impact during the jury's deliberation.

"These are experienced detectives who are not up there making mistakes," Ravenell said later. "Their comments were designed to prevent my client from getting a fair trial."

Blackwell was stripped of his church authority in 1998 after admitting he had had a sexual relationship with a different teenage boy in the 1970s. Pope John Paul II defrocked Blackwell in October.

Neither Blackwell's relationship with the other teen nor his defrocking has been presented directly during Blackwell's trial. Assistant State's Attorney Jo Anne Stanton refers to the defendant as "Mr. Blackwell," while Ravenell calls him "Father Blackwell." And in his testimony Friday, just as the detectives did yesterday, Stokes mentioned the possibility of "other victims."

Stanton expects to conclude the prosecution's case this morning with testimony from Monsignor Brian Ferme, a canon law expert from Catholic University of America in Washington. Ferme will discuss the duties Blackwell would have had as a priest, Stanton said.

Stokes alleges the abuse happened between 1989 and 1992. In May 2002, in the midst of a national scandal involving Catholic priests, Stokes confronted Blackwell in the Reservoir Hill neighborhood where they both lived and shot him three times.

Yesterday, Stanton called to the stand Lt. Frederick V. Roussey, now the city police union president, but formerly a child abuse detective. In 1993, Roussey investigated Stokes' allegation of abuse by Blackwell. Roussey testified yesterday that he closed the Blackwell case at the request of the city state's attorney's office. Prosecutors said they didn't have enough evidence to prosecute the priest.

Roussey, who warmly hugged Stokes in the hallway at a break in his testimony, made at least three statements that the judge instructed the jury to disregard.

The detective said he had "established" that Stokes had been abused between 20 and 30 times; that he found Stokes to be "credible," and that he had interviewed "other possible victims." Those last two remarks prompted Ravenell twice to ask -- out of earshot of the jury -- for a mistrial.

Detective Shawn Harrison, who interviewed Stokes after he shot the priest in May 2002, testified that she interviewed "other victims" of abuse by Blackwell, drawing an immediate objection from Ravenell. That's when the defense attorney made a third unsuccessful request for a mistrial.

Some emotional testimony from Stokes' mother, Tamara Stokes Morrison, and aunt, Thomasine Wells, also drew rebukes from the judge.

"I believe that he abused my son," Morrison said as she slammed her fist on the stand. The judge asked her to answer only the questions asked of her.

Under cross-examination, Wells, a longtime member at St. Edward, said she never witnessed Blackwell behaving inappropriately with any of the church youths. But she quickly added that "no one has sex out in the light," which the judge told the jury to disregard.

Ravenell raised the issue of Stokes' sexuality when he cross-examined Morrison. She admitted that she had once asked her son whether he was a "faggy boy" and said that if she believed her son were homosexual, she would seek counseling for him.

The defense has suggested that Stokes fabricated the story that he was molested by Blackwell, in part to rationalize psychological conflicts about his sexual orientation.

Morrison repeated a belief that Stokes expressed Friday. Both testified that they believe that most gay men were sexually abused as children.

Ravenell is expected to begin presenting defense witnesses today. He has subpoenaed two of Stokes' former attorneys, Warren A. Brown and William H. Murphy.

Brown successfully defended Stokes against the attempted-murder charges in December 2002. Stokes was convicted on gun charges and was sentenced to home detention.

Stokes' family retained Murphy's firm in 1993 to file a civil lawsuit against Blackwell and the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Ravenell said. And in 2002, during a dispute with Brown, the family considered hiring Murphy to defend Stokes in his criminal case.

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