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Inactive City Priest Admits To Sexual Abuse

Oct 12, 2002 | The Baltimore Sun An inactive Baltimore priest admitted in county Circuit Court yesterday that he had engaged in sex acts with a teen-age boy in his Catonsville rectory during the mid-1970s.

The victim now a 45- year-old Mount Washington man watched as the Rev. David G. Smith pleaded guilty to perverted practice.

"I'm just glad he had to face me in court," said Brian P. Hannon, who told police in July about the abuse he suffered at St. Mark's Church as a teen-ager.

Smith, 55, earlier had denied Hannon's allegations. Yesterday, he was sentenced to probation before judgment, which means the guilty verdict is put aside in return for his placement on probation. Upon completion of his probation, Smith may petition to have the finding expunged from the record.

The charge of perverted practice stems from an old Maryland law outlawing "unnatural or perverted" sexual activity, including oral sex between non-heterosexual couples. It is a felony that carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, and has no statute of limitations.

Assistant State's Attorney John Cox said he could not have prosecuted Smith for child abuse because Hannon was not under the priest's "care, custody or supervision" at the time of the sexual activity. Cox said the statute of limitations for prosecuting the case as a sex offense had long since expired.

Hannon told police that he was 15 or 16 and struggling with family problems when he first visited Smith for counseling. Their relationship became sexual, Hannon said, with Smith giving him alcohol and performing oral sex. "It was a vulnerable time when I met with him," Hannon said after the hearing. "He used his position."

Hannon told police that the sex acts stopped when he was 19 and engaged.

"Even though it happened 30 years ago, it had a profound effect on my life," Hannon told Judge Thomas J. Bollinger Sr. during the court hearing. Hannon said he has spent decades struggling with alcohol and drug abuse. He also said Smith's actions destroyed the Catholic faith that had been so important to him as a child. He said he only wanted an apology from Smith. If he had received one, he would not have gone to police, he said.

Smith declined to say anything in court and did not comment afterward.

After working at St. Mark's, Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Essex and Our Lady of Good Counsel in Locust Point, Smith left the active ministry in 1999. Church officials said his departure had nothing to do with allegations of sexual abuse.

Smith is now an owner of the Calvert House Restaurant in Baltimore.

Stephen J. Kearney, a spokesman for the Baltimore Archdiocese, said church officials welcomed Smith's guilty plea.

"This is the right outcome in this case," Kearney said.

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