- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 18, 2002

BALTIMORE The attorney for a man acquitted of attempted murder in the shooting of a priest he says molested him negotiated a deal yesterday that is expected to keep him out of jail for committing handgun violations.
Under the arrangement, Dontee Stokes, 26, would serve 18 months of house arrest and be on probation for three years, Circuit Judge John Prevas said.
Judge Prevas said he would hold a sentencing hearing Feb. 14 to complete the deal.
The judge announced the deal a day after a jury acquitted Stokes, a former altar boy, of attempted murder, reckless endangerment and assault, but convicted him of three misdemeanor gun charges. Accompanying the verdict was a handwritten note from the jury asking the judge for leniency during sentencing.
If he had been convicted of attempted murder, Stokes could have received life in prison.
Defense attorney Warren Brown said he would seek to reduce the amount of time Stokes would spend under house arrest. It wasn't immediately clear whether Stokes would get credit for the seven months he has served since his arrest in May for the shooting of the Rev. Maurice Blackwell.
The agreement canceled a planned hearing yesterday to determine whether Mr. Stokes was criminally responsible for the three gun violations. Mr. Brown had planned to argue that Stokes wasn't criminally responsible for the shooting because he suffered from a "mental disorder" because he was abused by Father Blackwell.
Mr. Brown said yesterday that he wanted to avoid the possibility of Stokes being found mentally incompetent and ending up in the care of the State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
"If he was put under the Department of Health, that could go on forever," Mr. Brown said. "We'd rather get something finite and be done with it."
Mr. Brown also said he wanted to avoid the possibility of the jury finding Stokes criminally responsible for the gun violations, which would allow the judge to send him to jail.
In 1993, Stokes accused Father Blackwell, then a priest at St. Edward Roman Catholic Church, of sexually abusing him.
Father Blackwell, 56, who came to the witness stand during the five-day trial but declined to testify, hasn't been charged as a result of Stokes' charges.
Mr. Brown has said the city's prosecutors refused to properly investigate Stokes' original complaint. Prosecutors have said they lacked enough evidence at the time to pursue a case.
Stokes said he shot Father Blackwell three times May 13 after he confronted the priest outside his house. The priest was wounded in his left hand and left hip.
Stokes said he didn't intend to harm Father Blackwell but that when the priest brushed him off, memories of abuse flooded back. Stokes said his vision flickered and he had the sensation "that his soul was trying to get ahold of his body" before he shot Father Blackwell.
When asked Monday night whether he had a message for the priest, Stokes said: "I have no message for Maurice Blackwell. I'll pray for Maurice Blackwell."
Cardinal William Keeler released a statement after the verdict was reached, saying "one sad chapter is concluded" and that the verdict could leave Baltimore with a "greater measure of reconciliation and peace."
Prosecutor Sylvester Cox told jurors that Stokes' abuse charge didn't justify the attack. "It gives him absolutely, absolutely, no right to go out on the street, find this man and shoot him down on the street," Mr. Cox said.
Stokes' mother, Tamara Stokes, closed her eyes and prayed as the jury foreman read the verdicts.
"I think this helps a lot of cases across the country," she said later. "As for abuse victims, I'm not saying this is the way to go, but for victims coming forward, there is some light."
Cardinal Keeler told jurors he regretted reinstating Father Blackwell after the charges of abuse surfaced. Father Blackwell was sent back to St. Edward under strict restrictions after he spent three months undergoing psychiatric evaluation.
As he walked to the witness stand last week, Cardinal Keeler shook hands with Stokes. Mr. Brown said that sight made an impression on jurors. "If the church was willing to forgive, in the jury's mind, it was easier for them to let him go," Mr. Brown said.

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