MONTGOMERY COUNTY

Priest Is Charged With Child Abuse

By Jacqueline L. Salmon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 3, 2008

A priest accused of abusing an altar boy in 2001 has been charged with child abuse after turning himself in to police Tuesday.

The Rev. Aaron Joseph Cote, 56, who was an associate pastor in 2001 and 2002 at Mother Seton parish in Germantown, had been accused of sexual abuse by the former altar boy, Brandon Rains, who filed a lawsuit against him in 2005.

Cote, who has been living in New York City, surrendered after learning that police would seek a warrant for his arrest. He pleaded not guilty.

"We do expect him to be fully exonerated," said Cote's attorney, Terrance McGann.

According to Montgomery County police, Cote had been counseling the boy while serving part time as youth minister at Mother Seton. In summer 2001, when the boy was 14 years old, police said, Cote took Rains to an apartment in Germantown and "engaged in inappropriate personal sexual activity in the victim's presence and inappropriate touching of the victim." The abuse allegedly continued for about one year.

Last year, the Catholic religious order of which Cote is a member, the Dominican Friars, Province of St. Joseph, agreed to pay $1.2 million to Rains to settle the lawsuit he filed against the order and Cote. In it, Rains accused Cote of "harmful sexual conduct and contact" with him that caused him "severe and permanent emotional distress."

Yesterday, Rains's mother, Toni McMorrow, said the family is relieved that charges have been filed.

"I'm still kind of in shock that it actually happened," she said. "We've waited a long time to see this day. . . . Hopefully, this will keep kids safe so that no one will have to go through what Brandon went through."

Cote also served in another area church, St. Jane Frances de Chantal Parish in Bethesda.

In April, a family in Springfield, Mass., filed a lawsuit against Cote and the Dominicans, alleging that he abused their preschool-age sons after he left Mother Seton.

The Washington Post generally does not identify victims of sexual abuse, but in this case Rains has been publicly identified by his mother and his attorney.


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