A former St. Mark Parish priest pleaded guilty in Baltimore County Circuit Court on Friday to having performed oral sex with a teenage boy almost 30 years ago, during counseling sessions at the parish rectory.
David Gerard Smith, 55, of Baltimore, received probation before judgment, a technical alternative to outright conviction.
He will remain on probation for one year, and is required to pay the court cost of his trial.
According to John Cox, the prosecuting attorney, perverted practice carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail. Cox had recommended conviction and a suspended jail sentence. He declined to comment on the verdict.
In sentencing Smith, Judge Thomas J. Bollinger Sr. noted that a conviction could hinder the defendant’s ability to make a living.
He also noted that the age of a victim has no bearing in a case of perverted practice. The charge applies to specific sexual acts, including oral sex.
For the victim, Smith’s plea of guilty brings “closure” to many years of psychological suffering, and will facilitate therapeutic progress.
“He’s admitted it,” said Brain Patrick Hannon, now 45 and a Baltimore area businessman. “I knew he wasn’t going to do jail time … I didn’t want to ruin his life.”
Presenting a victim’s impact statement in court, Hannon claimed that as a result of Smith’s actions, he had undergone 29 years of rehabilitation for substance abuse, and several years of counseling for depression.
Hannon said he finally contacted police last summer, after Smith declined to meet with him and apologize.
According to the charging document, Hannon contacted Baltimore County police July, saying that Smith had sexually abused him for about three years during the 1970s. During that time, the teenage Hannon was meeting regularly with Smith for counseling sessions at the rectory.
During the counseling sessions, Hannon told police, Smith would serve him beer and, after the alcohol took effect, would engage him in oral sex.
Hannon also told police that he reported the offense to Archdiocese of Baltimore officials, but that Smith had denied it.
“All I wanted was an apology,” Hannon said on Friday, discussing the verdict. “It was a vulnerable time when I went to him, and he used it.”
A former altar boy, Hannon said he lost his faith as a result of the abuse.
“I haven’t stepped foot in a church since.” he said.
“(Smith’s) guilty plea was an appropriate outcome in this case,” archdiocesan spokesman Stephen Kearney said on Monday.
Kearney added that Smith would not be allowed to resume status as a priest.
According to the archdiocese, Smith has been on leave of absence since June 2000, at his own request, for reasons unrelated to the case. He has had no faculties to perform ministry since that time.
The archdiocese also has confirmed that Smith was assigned to St. Mark Parish from 1973 to 1980.
From 1980 until 1992, he served at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish, in Essex, and from 1992 to 2000 at Our Lady of Good Counsel, in Baltimore.