Stokes testifies before grand jury weighing indictment of Blackwell

Sun Staff

Dontee D. Stokes, the Baltimore man who shot a priest he says molested him as a teen-ager, testified to a grand jury yesterday in an effort to help indict the suspended clergyman on charges of child sex abuse.

An indictment against the Rev. Maurice J. Blackwell could be handed up as early as today after the grand jury hears testimony from a police investigator, according to one source familiar with the proceeding who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Warren A. Brown, who successfully represented Stokes at his attempted-murder trial last year, said Stokes testified for about 40 minutes yesterday, detailing the abuse he says he suffered and answering jurors' questions about inconsistencies in his story.

"The truth will give rise to an indictment for what Maurice Blackwell did to Dontee and other kids," Brown said.

Grand jury proceedings are not open to the public.

Blackwell's lawyer, Kenneth W. Ravenell, didn't respond to requests for comment yesterday. He has said in the past that his client denies the allegations of sex abuse.

Stokes, 27, a West Baltimore barber, admitted shooting Blackwell three times on a Reservoir Hill street last spring after Blackwell refused to apologize for the alleged abuse.

Stokes is serving eight months of home detention for the minor handgun charges on which he was convicted in connection with the shooting. He was acquitted in December of first-degree attempted murder and other serious charges.

The Baltimore Archdiocese initiated in December the process of defrocking Blackwell in response to Stokes' accusations.

Stephen Kearney, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said yesterday he didn't know when the process would be complete, but added: "We've always thought the allegations against Maurice Blackwell are credible."

Stokes told grand jurors yesterday that he was raped by Blackwell, Brown said. He also answered questions about inconsistencies in reporting his story.

Stokes told authorities in 1993 that Blackwell had fondled him, but that the abuse went no further. He changed his story last May, telling police for the first time that Blackwell had sodomized him.

"In 1993, he thought what he said was sufficient," Brown said. "He thought it was enough for police to do something. Touching a child is morally and legally wrong."

At Stokes' trial in December, Baltimore Police Lt. Fred Roussey, who investigated Stokes' claims in 1993, testified that he believed Stokes and pushed for the state's attorney's office to press charges against Blackwell. That never happened, prosecutors said, because they lacked sufficient evidence.

Cardinal William H. Keeler also testified at the trial that he took Stokes' allegation of abuse "very seriously" when it came to light that year.

He removed Blackwell from the parish, St. Edward Roman Catholic Church in West Baltimore, for 90 days and sent him for a psychological evaluation.

When Blackwell returned, Keeler reinstated him, a move he testified he later regretted. He also apologized to Stokes for not being able to prevent the abuse.

In 1998, Blackwell was removed from the congregation and suspended from his priestly functions after he admitted to sexually abusing a teen-ager in the 1970s.

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