Priest Jailed for 15 Months
He Molested 2 Boys in the '80s When He Was St. John Associate Pastor
By Sheridan Lyons
January 22, 2003
A suspended Carroll County priest was sentenced yesterday to 15 months in jail for molesting two boys during the early 1980s while he was an associate pastor of a Westminster parish.
The Rev. Brian M. Cox, 63, may apply to have his sentence modified to home detention after serving half that time, said Carroll Circuit Judge Michael M. Galloway.
Cox, who was associate pastor of St. John Roman Catholic Church in Westminster at the time of the crimes, told the judge he was "very sorry" for what he had done to the boys.
"I hurt them. ... I caused them a lot of pain," Cox said. "They trusted me and I broke that trust."
The judge imposed consecutive, four-year sentences for each of two convictions for child abuse, but suspended all but 15 months. Cox was ordered to report Friday to the Carroll County Detention Center, where he is to serve his sentence.
Upon his release, he is to be placed on five years' probation, with requirements to continue several therapy and medication programs, register as a sex offender, have no unsupervised contact with minors and perform 1,000 hours of community service.
Carroll County Deputy State's Attorney Tracy A. Gilmore had asked for a six-year prison sentence, pointing out that each conviction carries a 15-year maximum term. But defense attorney Andrew Jay Graham said jail would serve no useful purpose, arguing that the crimes were isolated incidents more than two decades ago to be weighed against a life of service.
After leaving St. John, Cox founded the Resurrection Farm homeless shelter north of the city, which recently described plans to close. The Archdiocese of Baltimore placed him on permanent administrative leave and revoked his ability to administer sacraments or conduct Mass in 1995, after he admitted sexual misconduct with minors from 1979 to 1985, church officials have said.
About 30 people who knew Cox from the church, the farm or in counseling groups filled half of the historic courtroom in Westminster yesterday to show their support for him. About 200 wrote letters of support and 10 spoke in court on his behalf, praising "Father Brian" for his help and his generosity to the community.
On the other side sat one victim, John F. Curran III. Curran, an 11-year-old altar boy in 1980 when he was fondled in the shower by Cox on several swimming outings, is now 33, a vice president of sales in North Carolina who recently was recalled as a Navy reservist with a medical unit.
When Cox pleaded guilty in October to two counts of child abuse, Gilmore, the prosecutor, read from a transcript of taped conversations in which Cox apologized to Curran for hurting him and told him that he went to a bishop in 1984 and said he needed help.
In court yesterday, Curran complained that Cox's acts were premeditated. Later, in an interview, he said he wondered whether the supporters would entrust their children to Cox.
Curran said he stepped forward 10 months ago when he learned that Cox was free in the community and not in prison, as he had thought after the 1995 investigation. Curran said having a child - his 4-year-old daughter - motivated his actions.
Cox served as a priest of the Josephite religious society at St. Pius V from 1968 to 1973. He joined the Archdiocese of Baltimore in 1981. He served at St. John from 1978 to 1989 and assisted at St. John and St. Peter in Libertytown from 1989 to 1995.
In 1995, Cox was called to the attention of the archdiocese by a third party who said Cox had engaged in sexual misconduct in 1981. The archdiocese suspended him, forwarded the allegation to the Carroll County state's attorney's office and sent Cox to an in-patient psychiatric center in St. Louis.
Investigators were unable to question him and no charges were filed. A prosecutor assigned to the investigation later complained that the church would not disclose Cox's whereabouts, but an attorney for the archdiocese said church records don't show any requests from prosecutors.
A year later, Cox returned to Resurrection Farm, which had no affiliation with the archdiocese. News of his removal from the church for treatment had been met with a wave of community support for the priest.
A new investigation was opened in April, when Curran contacted Carroll County prosecutors and said he had been abused by Cox while a fifth-grade pupil at St. John Catholic School. Cox was arrested in May.
Yesterday, Curran criticized his treatment by the church and called for the resignation of Cardinal William H. Keeler, because "the commander's always responsible for the foot soldier's actions." He said he wrote the archdiocese for assistance to get Cox prosecuted but received no help.
During the hearing, Graham, the defense lawyer, said Cox had sought help from church officials but had been turned away.
Stephen J. Kearney, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, said any allegations by Cox, Curran or the attorneys that they asked for and did not receive help from the archdiocese are unfounded.
In recovery programs
Cox "lied to harm children and he's lying now to try to save himself," Kearney said. "He did not come forward to say he had a problem and was harming children."
Yesterday, Cox told the judge he has been in recovery programs since 1995.
Galloway, the judge, quoted from one letter calling Cox the "closest thing to a saint." But the judge said Cox had a disorder that he did not choose to have, but chose to act upon.
"The case before the court illustrates the pain that every victim of sexual abuse feels, the lasting nature of that pain," Galloway said. After imposing the sentence, Galloway wished Curran well, and Curran replied.
"With all due respect, your honor, I have been in jail for 20-some years," Curran said of the sentence. "A year and a half? What message does that say to others?"
The other victim in the case, who has remained anonymous since triggering the first investigation in 1995, remained too distraught at age 35 to write a victim-impact statement for the judge, Gilmore said.
Cox declined to comment to reporters outside the courthouse, as supporters lined up to hug him. Graham said he would seek modification to home detention, as the judge suggested, after seven and a half months.
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