Former Mother Seton Priest May Have Abused Second Boy in Ohio
Letters Show Teacher Told Priests about an Alleged Victim There Several Months before a Germantown Case Came to Light
By Melissa A. Chadwick
October 18, 2006
A priest accused of sexually abusing an altar boy at Mother Seton Parish in Germantown several years ago reportedly abused another boy in Ohio, according to letters contained in court filings.
A teacher in Ohio wrote a letter to the Order of Dominican Fathers and Brothers in June 2005 and informed them that a former student confided in her that the Rev. Aaron Joseph Cote, a member of the order, abused him in the late 1980s.
According to one of five letters between the woman and the Dominicans filed in Superior Court of the District of Columbia as part of a lawsuit, the teacher wrote: "Along with the sexual molestation, he indicated that Fr. A.J. had repeatedly shown him pornography and given him alcohol. I believe that the details that this student shared with me are true and that these incidents did take place."
Cote was a priest at Mother Seton from 1999 to 2002. A former Germantown resident has accused Cote of molesting him during that time and filed the lawsuit in November.
In letters to the Ohio teacher, the Dominicans asked her to tell the alleged victim that they would be willing to talk or meet with the man privately at a time and location of his convenience.
The man, now estimated to be about 30 years old, has not met with Dominicans or police regarding the matter, according to court documents.
Court filings show that months after the initial correspondence, Brother Ignatius Perkins sent an Aug. 24, 2005, e-mail to the Dominicans vicar provincial Raymond Daley and wrote he had learned that the alleged victim is in "distress that will not be abated without an intervention."
Perkins goes on to ask "how far can we go to gather or listen to data before we are obligated to report the incident to the civil authorities? We would have to inform the subject of this obligation. This may or may not deter him from speaking with us."
Perkins is the coordinator for the Dominicans program for Affirming and Protecting Children and Young Persons.
In a Dec. 5 letter to the teacher, Perkins wrote: "We have not had any contact with the alleged victim so we are not able to assure him of our concern for him, offer him any assistance with counseling or to assure him that we will act to bring this matter to closure."
Daley and other church officials said in November that they were not aware of other abuse allegations against Cote.
On Tuesday, after reading a prepared statement regarding the lawsuit, he added, "There really never was an allegation made against Father Cote. There was a report by a third party, but there was never a direct and clear report."
The Dominicans have set policies regarding when to initiate an investigation into alleged abuse. They do so only when an alleged victim makes a report directly to them or other authorities, Daley said.
Cote is currently on "administrative leave, pending all of this," Daley said.
Local allegations against Cote came to light in November 2005 after a former altar boy, Brandon Rains, 19, filed a lawsuit in Superior Court against Cote, the Archdiocese of Washington and the Order of Dominican Fathers and Brothers.
Rains accused Cote of repeatedly sexually abusing him when he was 14 and 15 years old, including showing him pornography, from June 1, 2001, to July 30, 2002, at locations in Germantown and Washington, D.C.
The alleged abuse was reported to Montgomery County police in August 2003, but no charges were filed. The matter is still under investigation, according to police.
Montgomery County family crimes detectives are "aware of the case in Ohio. Our detectives spoke with police in Somerset, Ohio. However, we have not been able to find any victims at this time," said police spokesman Lt. Eric Burnett.
Rains' attorney, Joanne Lynch Suder, said she "wasn't surprised" to learn of a possible second victim.
Rains' attorneys have asked a judge to require the Dominicans to provide the name of the teacher who told them about the alleged Ohio case. The attorneys were given her letters, but her name is redacted from them.
James B. Sarsfield, a Rockville attorney for the Dominicans, argues in a motion filed with the Superior Court that the teacher should not be identified.
He writes that providing her identity would "serve no purpose other than to expose [the teacher], and more particularly the individual whom she relates confided in her, and only her, to scrutiny on issues that the purported victim does not wish to disclose."
In the motion, Sarsfield writes that the former student "now declines to return [the teacher's] phone calls."
Cote, who was removed from his job as a youth pastor at a Providence church in November, was assigned to Mother Seton from 1999 to 2002. After Rains made his allegations in 2003, the order sent Cote for psychological evaluation, conducted an investigation and cleared him of any wrongdoing, church officials said in November.
The Dominicans have said that they investigated Rain's allegations in 2003 and cleared Cote of any wrongdoing.
Rains was never interviewed for the order's investigation, according to his family.
Cote also served at St. Jane Frances de Chantel in Bethesda and at St. Dominic Church and Priory in Washington, D.C., while assigned to the local archdiocese.
Rains, who was not available for comment, was 14 and 15 years old at the time of the alleged abuse and living in Germantown with his stepfather and mother, Joe and Toni McMorrow. The couple has since relocated to Frederick.
"It's scary because the things [the teacher] describes are very similar to Brandon's abuse," Toni McMorrow said Friday. "We don't understand. We're just confused and concerned."
Rains is currently working in the Gulf Coast area, repairing buildings damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
The alleged abuse occurred at a Germantown apartment and a Washington, D.C., hotel where Rains went on a retreat with Cote and other church youth. Rains first told his parents about the alleged abuse in 2003, about a year after it had ended.
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