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AnSuspect Asks Archdiocese for Mercy

May 29, 2002

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BALTIMORE (AP) _ A man charged with shooting a priest he says molested him as a teen-ager asked Roman Catholic Church officials to support probation instead of prison if he is convicted.

The lawyer for Dontee Stokes, 26, said his client deserves leniency because state prosecutors and the church failed to take strong action in 1993, when Stokes first brought abuse accusations against the Rev. Maurice Blackwell.

Cardinal William Keeler already has written that he regrets reinstating Blackwell in 1993 and has publicly apologized to Stokes and his family.

``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,″ lawyer Warren Brown wrote in a letter to Keeler.

In exchange for the Baltimore Archdiocese’s support, Stokes would publicly forgive Blackwell and express forgiveness toward the church, Brown wrote.

In a response, Keeler said he was grateful that Stokes and 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.

Prosecutors are seeking at least five years without parole for Stokes in the assault charge stemming from the May 13 shooting.

Blackwell has been released from the hospital and has not been charged with any crimes. He was put on permanent leave in 1998 after admitting he had sex with a teen-age boy before his ordination in 1974.

Although police looked into Stokes’ 1993 accusation, the investigation was dropped and Blackwell was reinstated by the archdiocese over the objections of a lay review panel.

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