Man Who Shot Priest Spared Jail Term

A man who shot and wounded a priest who had allegedly molested him as a boy pleaded guilty to gun charges Thursday and was let off without a prison sentence.

"It's a big relief," said Dontee Stokes (search), a 28-year-old barber. "I'm thankful to have the support of other victims and the support of the community."

Stokes had already served 18 months under house arrest.

A jury acquitted him in 2002 of attempted murder and other charges in the shooting of the Rev. Maurice Blackwell (search). Stokes told jurors he had an "out-of-body experience" when he shot the Roman Catholic priest three times with a .357 Magnum handgun for allegedly molesting him as a teenager between 1989 and 1992.

Stokes was convicted of carrying a handgun, firing a handgun within city limits, and transporting a handgun in a vehicle, and was sentenced to 18 months of home confinement.

An appeals court overturned the conviction in February and granted him a new trial because alternate jurors were allowed to take part in deliberations. But Stokes pleaded guilty instead.

Under Maryland law, he could not get a stiffer sentence than the one originally imposed.

"We're elated," said Stokes' attorney, Warren Brown (search), standing outside the courthouse. "We walked up these same steps ... 26 months ago, and he was facing life in prison. The state thought they were doing us a favor by offering us 25 years."

Blackwell goes on trial Aug. 30 on charges of molesting Stokes. The former priest could get up to 60 years in prison.

"I want to see him face to face," Stokes said. "There's still a whole lot more fighting I have to do for other victims."