Jury Gets Case in Trial of Ex-Priest in Md.

Jurors began deliberations Wednesday following closing arguments in the trial of a former priest accused of sexually molesting an altar boy, who shot the cleric on a city street a decade after the alleged abuse.

Maurice Blackwell (search), 58, who did not testify, faces up to 60 years in prison if convicted of molesting Dontee Stokes (search), 29, who served home detention on a gun charge for attacking the former Roman Catholic priest.

In their closing arguments, defense attorneys portrayed Stokes as a disturbed young man who made up the allegations to deal with a sexual identity crisis, and the prosecution called him a vulnerable victim preyed upon by a trusted father figure.

Defense attorney Kenneth Ravenell told jurors Stokes had homosexual tendencies and was "willing to lie" to protect the secret of his sexual identity. He said Stokes fabricated the abuse allegations as a way of dealing with his sexuality.

"There was absolutely no credibility to anything Dontee Stokes has told you," he said.

Stokes admitted in court that he has had trouble distinguishing between fantasy and reality at times, but firmly maintained he was sexually abused in Blackwell's residence at the rectory of St. Edwards Church in Baltimore.

Prosecutor Jo Anne Stanton called the allegations that Stokes was concealing homosexual tendencies a "smoke screen."

"Dontee Stokes stood right here and looked directly at him (Blackwell) and said `You are the one who did these things to me,'" Stanton told jurors.

"Why would he do this if it didn't happen? He had nothing to gain, a whole lot to lose," she said.

Stanton said Stokes' mental problems coincided with the alleged abuse, which Stokes said started in 1989, when he was 13. She said it was normal for an abused child to "question his own concept of what is real and what is not."

On Tuesday, the last day of testimony, a psychiatrist testified that Stokes made wild claims to doctors in several mental evaluations, meaning he either had severe psychotic symptoms or was trying to fake them.d

Stokes shot and wounded the former Roman Catholic priest three years ago. He was acquitted of attempted murder in December 2002 but was convicted on gun charges.

Blackwell was stripped of his church authority after acknowledging he had a sexual relationship with a teenage boy in the early 1970s. The Vatican defrocked him in October.