Former Mother Seton Pastor Sentenced to Probation

By Meghan Tierney
November 23, 2009

Cote abused altar boy in 2001 and 2002 sentenced to 10 years of probation on Monday for sexually abusing an altar boy in 2001 and 2002.

The Rev. Aaron Joseph Cote, 58, who was a pastor at Mother Seton Parish at the time of the abuse, was found guilty of third-degree sex offense in July. He is on administrative leave and cannot engage in ministry, according to a statement from the religious order to which he belongs, the Dominican Fathers and Brothers.

Cote agreed to complete counseling and serve 10 years' probation, five of it supervised, in New York. Cote must also register as a sex offender, complete sex offender treatment and not work or have any unsupervised contact with minors, according to the sentence imposed Monday by Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Louise G. Scrivener.

Cote abused Brandon Rains, now 22, and living in Florida, when he was 14 and 15 years old but still denies what he did was wrong, according to county prosecutors.

"It's relieving" for the case to be over, Rains said after the sentencing, adding that he hopes hearing his story helps other victims of abuse come forward. "No one's above accountability," he said. "After the 20 years of what he's done I think [the sentence] is light. It's hard to believe he's going to be supervised closely."

The abuse included sexual touching and watching pornography, and Cote bought Rains gifts, took him to dinner and gave him money for marijuana, prosecutors have said.

Rains and his family reported the abuse to county police in 2003 while Rains was in substance abuse treatment. The family grew dissatisfied with the lack of police action and filed a lawsuit against Cote and the Dominicans in 2005.

Although The Gazette rarely names victims of sex crimes, Rains and his family went public with the case.

Police filed charges against Cote after the lawsuit was settled for $1.2 million in 2007.

Documents filed in the lawsuit indicate that the Dominican order had records from church officials and parents suspicious of Cote's relationship with children and possible abuse. Those reports date to the 1980s, when Cote was a pastor in Ohio.

Cote served at St. Jane Frances de Chantal Catholic Church in Bethesda in the late 1990s, prior to his Mother Seton assignment. He was an associate pastor and youth minister at Mother Seton from 1999 to 2002.

After Rains' allegations were made in 2003, the Dominican order sent Cote for psychological evaluation, conducted an investigation and cleared him of any wrongdoing, church officials have said.

Cote then was assigned a position as youth minister and associate pastor in Providence, R.I. When Rains filed the lawsuit, Cote was placed on administrative leave, church officials have said.

Cote is "under close watch" at a Dominican priory in New York and will not perform normal ministerial duties or work with the public as a Catholic priest again, his attorney Terrence McGann said. Any decision on Cote's future with the church will be made after officials receive notification of the sentence, Ignatius Perkins of the Dominican Fathers and Brothers' Province of St. Josephs said.


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