- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 29, 2002

BALTIMORE The attorney for a man accused of shooting a former priest asked archdiocese officials yesterday to support probation instead of prison for his client.
In exchange, Dontee Stokes, who is charged with shooting the Rev. Maurice Blackwell, would publicly forgive Father Blackwell for sexually abusing him when Mr. Stokes was a teen-ager. Mr. Stokes' attorney, Warren Brown, wrote in a letter to Cardinal William Keeler that Mr. Stokes would also express forgiveness for the Catholic Church.
Cardinal Keeler has already written that he regrets reinstating Father Blackwell in 1993, after Mr. Stokes had accused the priest of sexual abuse. The cardinal has also publicly apologized to Mr. Stokes and his family, a gesture Mr. Brown said the family appreciated.
"However, we believe it is equally appropriate for you to publicly join in asking that the State's Attorney's Office quickly bring a measure of closure and healing to this human tragedy by offering Dontee counseling over incarceration," Mr. Brown wrote in the letter.
In a response, Cardinal Keeler said he was grateful that Mr. Stokes and Mr. Brown were "looking for an atmosphere that fosters reconciliation and healing."
"If the court releases Mr. Stokes, we stand ready to provide whatever professional help is needed and appropriate," the cardinal wrote.
Mr. Brown said Mr. Stokes would be better able to get counseling outside of prison.
In the letter, Mr. Brown said his client deserves leniency because both the State's Attorney's Office and the church failed to take strong action against Mr. Blackwell.
Although police looked into Mr. Stokes' accusation, the investigation was dropped and Father Blackwell was reinstated by the archdiocese over the objections of a lay review panel.
Since then, Mr. Stokes has had to "cope with the ugly feelings that naturally accompany such victimization," Mr. Brown wrote.
"Those feelings erupted on May 13th of this year, bringing national attention to the Catholic Church's failure in Baltimore to responsibly address this young boy's 1993 complaint," the letter said.
Prosecutors are seeking at least five years without possibility of parole for Mr. Stokes on a first-degree assault charge, Mr. Brown wrote.
"It's crazy," Mr. Brown said in an interview yesterday. "It's upside down."
Margaret Burns, a spokeswoman for Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy, said she would not comment on the case.
Mr. Stokes has been under house arrest since May 17, four days after the shooting.
Last week, Mr. Brown asked District Judge H. Gary Bass to allow Mr. Stokes to be able to leave the relative's house where he has been living, so he can visit with doctors and attorneys. Mr. Brown said yesterday that he was still waiting for a decision.
While under house arrest three days after his release from jail Mr. Stokes tested positive for marijuana use, law enforcement officials said. But it is not clear when he used the drug, which can stay in the body for 30 days.
A preliminary hearing for Mr. Stokes has been set for June 11.
Nine days after the shooting, another man stepped forward and also accused Father Blackwell of sexual abuse.
Baltimore police say they plan to interview Ricardo Wayman, 50, to discuss the accusations.
Father Blackwell, who was shot three times and released from the hospital May 18, has not been charged with any crimes. He was put on a permanent leave of absence in 1998 after admitting he had a sexual relationship with another teen-age boy before his ordination in 1974.
Yesterday, Father Blackwell did not return a phone call seeking comment on the case.


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