Charges possible against priest
Blackwell case may go to grand jury; Sexual abuse alleged; Stokes says he would cooperate in prosecution
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By Allison Klein
Sun Staff
Originally published April 26, 2003


Four months after Dontee D. Stokes captured national attention for being acquitted of attempted murder in the shooting of a priest he says molested him, Baltimore prosecutors are close to seeking sex abuse charges against the clergyman, Maurice J. Blackwell.
Law enforcement officials said the case is likely to go to the grand jury in a few weeks.

The state's attorney's spokeswoman declined to comment on the investigation, but Stokes' lawyer, Warren A. Brown, said yesterday that prosecutors have told him they want to interview his client.

"The thrust of it is that they're trying to take it into the grand jury," Brown said. "I'm confident they will take it in. They want to wrap this up quickly."

In November, Baltimore prosecutors sent the Blackwell case to the Carroll County state's attorney's office for an outside review because one of its prosecutors has experience with handling sensitive sex-crime investigations.

That review was recently completed, said Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore state's attorney's office. She declined to reveal the conclusions.

Baltimore prosecutor Jo Anne Stanton, who is handling the case, was out of the office yesterday.

"The case has been lingering, and it's been put on her," said Brown, who in the summer stood on the steps of the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse with a bullhorn, hurling insults at prosecutors for not prosecuting Blackwell.

Kenneth W. Ravenell, Blackwell's lawyer, said his client denies abusing the youth.

Stokes - who admitted to shooting Blackwell on a West Baltimore street nearly a year ago in an uncontrollable, "out-of-body" state - is serving eight months' home detention for minor handgun charges he was convicted of in connection with the shooting. He was acquitted of first-degree attempted murder and other charges in December.

Stokes said yesterday that he has heard prosecutors want to speak with him about seeking an indictment against the priest.

"I've heard they're close to something," said Stokes, 27, a West Baltimore barber.

Stokes said he would be willing to cooperate with the state's attorney's office and testify about the alleged abuse, even if it becomes graphic in nature.

"That's not a problem," Stokes said.

Blackwell has refused to speak publicly about the case since he was shot three times in May. He also refused to testify in court during Stokes' trial, invoking his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

Also during the trial, Cardinal William H. Keeler took the stand moments after warmly shaking Stokes' hand and told the jury that he regretted he could not prevent the alleged abuse. He then apologized to Stokes.

For his part, Stokes testified that Blackwell, whom he once considered a father figure, sodomized him when he was a teen-ager.

Stokes told the Circuit Court jury that he encountered Blackwell near his home on a Reservoir Hill street and demanded an apology for the abuse that allegedly occurred years earlier. Blackwell refused, and Stokes said he shot him at close range while in an "out-of-body" state and that he had no control over himself at the time.

After the verdict, some jurors said they felt Stokes had endured enough pain because of the alleged sexual abuse, and because authorities doubted his claims during the initial investigation nine years ago.

In 1993, Stokes told authorities he had been molested by Blackwell, but said the clergyman did not rape him.

Prosecutors said that because Stokes changed his story about being raped, it could be a difficult case to prosecute.

Brown said he believes a grand jury will indict Blackwell.

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