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Baltimore ex-priest guilty of molesting boy

A Baltimore jury on Thursday found a defrocked priest guilty of molesting a former altar boy. Three years ago, the young man shot him on a city street.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A defrocked priest was found guilty Thursday of molesting a former altar boy.

Jurors found that Maurice Blackwell, 58, who did not testify, molested Dontee Stokes, 29, when Blackwell was pastor of St. Edward, a Roman Catholic church in West Baltimore. Stokes said the molestation began when he was 13 and continued until he was 17.

Stokes shot Blackwell three years ago on a city street.

Sentencing was scheduled for April 15. He could face up to 45 years in prison.

After the verdict, Stokes said he felt vindicated. “Mr. Blackwell was at no point on trial. It was all about me,” he said. “The world can see that I’m not a perfect person, but I stand here right and he stands wrong.”

On Wednesday, the jurors deliberated five hours without reaching a verdict, sending a note to the judge saying they were unable to agree and asking, “What do we do? How do we proceed?”

Judge Stuart Berger read them standardized instructions Thursday morning on the importance of reaching an unanimous verdict before they resumed their efforts.

Stokes served home detention on a gun charge related to the shooting but was acquitted of attempted murder.

Vulnerable victim?
In closing arguments Wednesday, defense attorneys portrayed Stokes as a disturbed young man who made up the allegations to deal with a sexual identity crisis.

The prosecution called him a vulnerable victim who was preyed upon by a trusted father figure.

Defense attorney Kenneth Ravenell told jurors Stokes had homosexual tendencies and was “willing to lie” to protect the secret of his sexual identity. He said Stokes fabricated the abuse allegations as a way of dealing with his sexuality.

“There was absolutely no credibility to anything Dontee Stokes has told you,” he said.

Stokes admitted in court that he has had trouble distinguishing between fantasy and reality at times, but firmly maintained he was sexually abused by Blackwell.

Prosecutor Jo Anne Stanton called the allegations that Stokes was concealing homosexual tendencies a “smoke screen.”

Blackwell was stripped of his church authority after acknowledging he had a sexual relationship with a teenage boy in the early 1970s. The Vatican defrocked him in October.

Stokes had made accusations against Blackwell in 1993, but Blackwell denied the allegations and no other alleged victims came forward at the time. Blackwell received psychological treatment and returned to his parish, although he was barred from working with children and young adults.

In May 2002, in the midst of the national scandal involving Catholic priests, Stokes shot Blackwell three times. In the aftermath, Baltimore prosecutors reviewed Stokes’ allegations and charged Blackwell with molesting Stokes.

Thursday's verdict comes two days after a Boston judge sentenced defrocked priest Paul Shanley to 12-15 years for child rape.