Germantown Priest Indicted on Sex Offense Not Receiving Counseling

By Alex Ruoff
The Gazette
September 28, 2010

A former Germantown youth pastor found guilty of sexually abusing an altar boy in 2009 has not been receiving court-ordered counseling, and county prosecutors say they intend to find him a program to fulfill the terms of his probation.

The Rev. Aaron Joseph Cote, 58, now of Gaithersburg, was found guilty in November of sexually abusing an altar boy in 2001 and 2002 and was sentenced to 10 years of probation, five of which were to be supervised while staying with the Dominican Order of Fathers and Brothers in New York City, under which he was ordained.

Cote was called to Montgomery County Circuit Court today on charges he violated that probation by not entering counseling. Prosecutors say they do not intend to follow through with the charges, claiming the order would not care for him.

"Every place I have tried to transfer, they won't take me," Cote said during his hearing in front of Judge Louise G. Scrivener.

Donna Fenton, an assistant state's attorney prosecuting the case, said the state will need to time to find a "care program" for Cote, likely a Montgomery County counseling service.

"Technically we aren't even asking for a violation hearing," she said. "We are asking for a review of the plan for [Cote]."

Bridgette Hardwood, a victim's attorney with the Maryland Crime Victim Resource Center Inc. of Upper Marlboro representing the Rains family who won a civil lawsuit filed in 2005 that prompted criminal charges against Cote two year later said the family is concerned about monitoring the priest's presence in Montgomery County.

"They certainly are concerned that the state keeps an eye on him," she said.

Cote was required to register as a sex offender in Maryland after being found guilty of showing pornography to Brandon Rains, then 14 and 15 years old, who was an altar boy at Mother Seton Parish in Germantown.

The allegations against Cote include sexual touching and watching pornography with a minor, as well as claims he bought Rains gifts, took him to dinner and gave him money to purchase marijuana, court records say.

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.

Cote denies the allegations. The terms of his sentencing did not require him to plead guilty in the case; instead, he only chose not to object to a statement of facts presented by prosecutors.

The Gazette does not normally print the names of victims of sex crimes; however, Rains and his family went public with their case against Cote.



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