Judge reconsiders former Germantown youth pastor's sex offense probation
Prosecutors found terms were not being met
This story was corrected Friday, Jan. 28, 2011. An explanation follows the story.
A judge has changed the terms of probation for a former Germantown youth pastor who was found guilty in 2009 of sexually abusing an altar boy, after prosecutors found the priest was not meeting the original terms.
The Rev. Aaron Joseph Cote, 59, will now take polygraph tests. Montgomery County Circuit Court Associate Judge Louise Scrivener granted Maryland State Police the ability to issue the tests.
During a Monday hearing, Assistant State's Attorney Karla Smith asked for the tests "for the protection of the community."
Smith also said Cote's counselor is not properly certified, she said. She asked Scrivener to appoint a new counselor.
Scrivener said she would retain the same counselor because the Dominican Fathers and Brothers, the order in which Cote was ordained, would not pay for any other counseling option, and because she did not want to keep resetting the case.
Cote said in the hearing that he did not believe a polygraph was different from the penile plethysmograph tests he takes.
Health professionals use these tests on sex offenders to measure arousal and record blood flow, heart or breathing rate when viewing certain images.
Cote was found guilty in November 2009 of sexually abusing a teenage altar boy in 2001 and 2002. He was sentenced to 10 years of probation, five of them to be supervised while staying with the Dominican order.
The order refused to care for Cote, according to prosecutors.
Scrivener re-evaluated Cote's plan Monday.
Smith said Cote should be counseled by a licensed mental health professional.
Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office spokeswoman Emily White said Cote is seeing Stephen Price, the director of Silver Spring-based Justice and Hearing, a center that provides treatment for sex offenders.
The center's website states Price has more than 25 years experience in addiction, trauma and offender treatment, but does not list specific academic credentials.
Price refused to comment Tuesday.
Smith recommended Dr. Ronald Weiner, of Clinical & Forensic Associates, PC, one of the only licensed mental-health professionals in Maryland who specializes in working with sexual offenders.
According to the Clinical & Forensic Associates website Weiner has a doctoral degree from the University of Maryland in social welfare and social policy, as well as a master's degree in social work from Howard University. He is licensed in both Maryland and the District of Columbia as a clinical social worker.
Smith said that Weiner and Price's services were comparable in cost.
Cote has been compliant throughout his supervised probation, according to Mark A. Vernarelli, director of public information for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Cote sees a counselor four times a month, calls the sexual offender call-in line every day and attends a treatment program.
Jillian Boger, Cote's probation officer, said in court that the Dominican order receives weekly updates from Price, and is happy with where Cote is.
Cote refused to comment after the hearing Monday.
Cote was required to register as a sex offender in Maryland after he was found guilty of showing pornography to Brandon Rains, then an altar boy at Mother Seton Parish.
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 buy marijuana, court records say.
Cote denies all the allegations. The terms of his sentencing did not require him to plead; instead, he chose not to object to a statement of facts presented by prosecutors.
Rains won a civil lawsuit filed in 2005 that prompted criminal charges against Cote two years later. Toni and Joe McMorrow, Rains' mother and stepfather, still follow the case.
"I think it is a positive development," Joe McMorrow said of Monday's hearing. "[Cote] is for some reason being totally resistant to honoring terms of the agreement. It is disappointing that Cote is still maintaining innocence it still poses a risk to the community."
Cote's address in court records is that of the Motel 6 in Gaithersburg.
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.
Priors at the Dominican Province of St. Joseph's in New York City were not available for comment Monday or Tuesday.
Correction: Brandon Rains, not Toni and Joe McMorrow, filed a civil suit against Aaron Cote.