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  Blackwell's Abuse Trial Postponed for 6th Time
Piqued Judge Grants Delay after Scolding Attorneys

By Julie Bykowicz
Baltimore Sun [Baltimore MD]
January 4, 2005

The sexual child abuse trial of recently defrocked Baltimore priest Maurice Blackwell was postponed for the sixth time yesterday after his defense attorney and the prosecutor told the judge that they were not ready to begin.

Blackwell, 58, is accused of molesting Dontee Stokes, a former parishioner who shot the older man in May 2002, more than a decade after the abuse allegedly occurred. The new trial date is Feb. 10.

Stokes, a 28-year-old West Baltimore barber, was acquitted of attempted murder charges, and Blackwell was later indicted on four counts of sexual child abuse and four counts of assault. The assault charges were dropped, but the sexual child abuse charges have been pending since May 2003.

Although the trial was set to begin yesterday morning, neither defense attorney Kenneth W. Ravenell nor Assistant State's Attorney Jo Anne Stanton had asked their witnesses to come to court. Both told the trial judge that they believed the administrative judge, John M. Glynn, had agreed to a postponement.

But Ravenell, who requested the delay, did not obtain an advance postponement from Glynn, and yesterday the trial judge, Circuit Judge Stuart R. Berger, was visibly annoyed during the morning court proceeding that the attorneys were not prepared for trial.

Hours before he relented and granted a postponement, Berger said that it was "not in the interest of justice" to postpone the trial again and that he could not "countenance or condone it."

He ordered both sides to be prepared to begin at 2 p.m. But when court reconvened, Stanton said she was unable to reach two of her witnesses -- one of whom is out of state and would need to fly in. Berger then granted the postponement and scolded the attorneys.

"I fail to comprehend how witnesses could not be summoned," he said. "Trial dates are not guidelines or suggestions."

In a statement to police disclosed during his trial in December 2002, Stokes said he shot Blackwell outside the man's Reservoir Hill home after he refused to apologize for what Stokes said were incidents of fondling and sodomy that occurred between 1989 and 1992. Stokes' allegations were investigated by the city state's attorney's office in 1993, but no charges were brought at the time.

Blackwell was a popular pastor of St. Edward Roman Catholic Church in West Baltimore from 1979 until 1998, when he was stripped of his church authority after admitting to having a sexual relationship with another teenage boy in the early 1970s. The Archdiocese Of Baltimore announced last month that Blackwell was defrocked in October by Pope John Paul II.

 
 

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