Former Mother Seton Priest Settles Alleged Abuse Case

By Melissa A. Chadwick
August 23, 2007

Maryland — A former altar boy at Mother Seton Parish in Germantown who accused a priest there of sexually abusing him has reached a $1.2 million settlement with a Catholic religious order.

The Rev. Aaron Joseph Cote, 56, was accused of abusing Brandon Rains, now 21, from June 2001 to July 2002 at locations in Germantown and Washington, D.C. Rains filed a lawsuit against Cote in November 2005. Cote worked as a member of the Order of Dominican Fathers and Brothers in New York City and was assigned as an associate pastor and youth minister at Mother Seton from 1999 to 2002.

The allegations of sexual abuse were reported to Montgomery County Police on Aug. 14, 2003. No criminal charges were ever filed against Cote, police said.

After the allegations were made in 2003, the order sent Cote for psychological evaluation, conducted an investigation and cleared him of any wrongdoing, said officials with both the local archdiocese and the Providence, R.I., diocese, where Cote was assigned at the time.

The Washington Archdiocese and the Dominicans were named as co-defendants in the lawsuit, which was filed in Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The Dominicans, not the archdiocese, reached the settlement, archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Gibbs said Thursday.

"We hope, first of all that no one gets harmed, and if they do, as in this case, we notify the police and do everything we can to help," Gibbs said, adding that the archdiocese was not aware of any other allegations against Cote.

When the lawsuit was filed, Cote was placed on administrative leave from his posts as youth minister and associate pastor at St. Pius V Church in Providence, said officials of the Dominican order.

Cote also served at St. Jane Frances de Chantel Catholic Church in Bethesda in the late 1990s prior to going to Mother Seton.

Rains was 14 and 15 years old at the time of the alleged abuse and living in Germantown with his mother and stepfather. The couple has since relocated to Frederick.


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