- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 18, 2002

BALTIMORE A man charged with shooting the priest he has accused of molesting him was released from jail yesterday on $150,000 bail.

Dontee Stokes, 26, walked out of jail with his mother, Tamara, and other family members and was immediately swarmed by reporters. Mr. Stokes declined comment, and he was whisked into a car and driven away.

Thomasine Wells, Mr. Stokes' aunt, said the family was seeking counseling because "old wounds have been open."

"We've been through this once before," she said in front of the jail moments before Mr. Stokes was released. "And so here it is, again, and the whole world knows."

A judge set bail of $150,000 yesterday for Mr. Stokes, after a psychiatrist testified that the defendant was not dangerous.

However, District Judge H. Gary Bass said he was concerned for the safety of the Rev. Maurice Blackwell, who lives three blocks away from Mr. Stokes. Judge Bass ordered Mr. Stokes to remain under house arrest at an aunt's home far from the priest's neighborhood.

Mr. Stokes will be fitted with an electronic monitoring device.

Father Blackwell, 56, was in fair condition yesterday at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center. A hospital spokeswoman said he would remain there overnight.

Miss Wells sent condolences to Father Blackwell and his family.

"What my nephew's done was wrong … However, what Blackwell did to my nephew, it was wrong," she said.

Dr. Steven Siebert testified that he talked Thursday to Mr. Stokes for about 2½ hours in jail and that he was "coherent and easy to follow."

Prosecutor Sylvester Cox recommended a bail of $150,000 after reviewing the case history.

"We already have evidence of an explosion that occurred earlier this week. Let's hope it doesn't happen again," Mr. Cox said.

Also yesterday, Cardinal William Keeler issued a public apology to Mr. Stokes at noon Mass at the Basilica of the Assumption. Cardinal Keeler said that Mr. Stokes "suffered intensely because of the difficulties in which he now finds himself and which we find ourselves."

Mr. Stokes' mother had said after the bail hearing that she was "still waiting for a personal apology."

Ray Kempisty, a spokesman for the Baltimore Archdiocese, said Cardinal Keeler's apology wasn't planned but was "further clarification about where we are on the issue of the sexual abuse of children and our complete feeling of compassion for the victims and our sorrow for our inadequacies along the way."

Cardinal Keeler said in a newspaper opinion piece yesterday that he regrets reinstating Father Blackwell in 1993, after Mr. Stokes' accusation. Cardinal Keeler also said Father Blackwell was restored to priestly duties after three months of psychiatric evaluations.

Mr. Kempisty said Cardinal Keeler believes in "zero tolerance" for priests credibly accused of sexual abuse and that the Blackwell case represents an "example of the door cracked open in the policy, a door essentially shut since then."

Cardinal Keeler has visited Father Blackwell in the hospital this week, Mr. Kempisty said, "as he would try to do with any priest hospitalized." The spokesman said he did not know what the two discussed.


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