MARYLAND WON’T RETRY PRIEST ACCUSED OF SEX ABUSE
Baltimore prosecutors and police said they believed 17 year old Dontee Stokes was telling the truth in 1993 when he complained that Rev. Maurice Blackwell had fondled him. But they decided not to file charges because the only evidence they had was the teenager's word. Stokes, now 29, was jailed without bond after he allegedly shot and wounded the priest in a confrontation outside the cleric's home. A mental competency exam was ordered for Stokes after hearing that he suffered from depression and had once attempted suicide. Stokes was charged with attempted murder, first and second degree assault and handgun violations. Blackwell, 58, was upgraded from serious to fair condition. He was removed from his parish in 1998 over allegations that he had molested a second youth. Cardinal William Keeler met with Stokes and assured him he would push for a zero-tolerance policy toward sexual abuse of children in the Roman Catholic Church. There's no place in the ministry of our church for anyone who would put a child in danger, Keeler said.
Stokes' attorney reached a deal December 17, 2002, that could keep him out of prison for handgun violations. Under the arrangement, Stokes would serve 18 months of house arrest and get three years' probation. The judge announced the deal a day after Stokes was acquitted of attempted murder, reckless endangerment and assault but convicted of three gun charges.
Blackwell pleaded innocent on May 29, 2003, to charges that he sexually abused Stokes. His attorney said that Blackwell was not interested in seeking a plea deal.
Stokes pleaded guilty to gun charges in Baltimore July 15 and was let off without a prison sentence. He already served 18 months under house arrest. He was acquitted of attempted murder.
Blackwell has been defrocked by Pope John Paul II. The pope decided in October 2004 to dismiss Blackwell and the Archdiocese of Baltimore received the official paperwork in December from the Vatican.
Blackwell was convicted on February 17, 2005. He was found guilty on three of four counts of sexually abusing Stokes. He was facing up to 45 years in prison if he was to be sentenced in April. The conviction was thrown out less than two months after the jury found Blackwell guilty and a judge granted him a new trial. His attorney's argued that references by detectives to other victims made it impossible for his client to get a fair trial.
The Baltimore state's attorney, Patricia Jessamy, won't retry Blackwell. A spokeswoman for Jessamy told the Baltimore Sun on July 1 that prosecutors don't believe Blackwell would have been sentenced to much, if any, prison time if he were convicted again.
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