|Priest Found Guilty of Child Sexual Abuse
By Rochelle Myers
July 14, 2009
ROCKVILLE-- A Roman Catholic priest was convicted Monday in Montgomery County Circuit Court of sexually abusing an altar boy at a Germantown church more than seven years ago.
The Rev. Aaron Cote, 57, now living in New York City, will be sentenced Oct. 14 to 10 years of probation -- five of them supervised -- and must undergo a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation. The former part-time youth minister at Mother Seton parish also must register as a sex offender under the court order announced Monday.
Cote was convicted of third-degree sex offense. He pleaded not guilty and was convicted after the judge heard an agreed-upon statement of facts.
The criminal ruling comes almost two years after Cote's New York-based Dominican order agreed to a $1.2 million settlement in a civil lawsuit.
The victim, Brandon Rains, now 22, claimed Cote repeatedly molested him from June 2001 to June 2002. Rains' stepfather said he is proud of Rains for coming forward and the guilty verdict in criminal court served as important vindication for his son after all this time.
"Cote must register as a sex offender. He's a convicted felon and was found guilty and those are the most important things," said Joe Murrow, Rains' stepfather. "He is not to have any contact with children or our family or he'll be in violation of his probation."
After Rains' initial allegations in 2003, which the Archdiocese of Washington termed credible, and despite previous questions about Cote's behavior, the priest went on to serve as associate pastor at St. Pius V Church in Providence, R.I.
In April 2008, Cote was sued over allegations he molested two Springfield, Mass., brothers in 2003.
During the discovery process of the Rains' lawsuit, it was learned that the Rev. Raymond Daley, vicar provincial of Cote's Dominican order, knew of at least two allegations involving Cote in Ohio dating back to 1988. Also in Cote's Dominican file were claims of inappropriate behavior from his station in Peru two decades ago.
Murrow said the prosecution was prepared to bring testimony of a priest from Peru, an Ohio teacher who was told of abuse from a student, and an Ohio church secretary who alleged Cote drank and showed boys a pornographic movie.
"As disappointed as we are that Cote did not receive jail time, children are safer as long as he is registered as a sex offender," Murrow said. "It makes it much more difficult for him to gain supervision of children."
Becky Ianni, director of Washington/Virginia SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said although Cote doesn't face jail time at the moment, others may find hope in his conviction.
"We're hoping now that he's been convicted, other victims will learn that they are not alone with this and come forward," Ianni said.
-- The Associated Press contributed to this story
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