I’m attending the entire trial this week. Here’s a brief report from Monday and Tuesday.
Eight counts of sex abuse and sex offense by Nathaniel “Nate” Morales were scheduled to be tried this week in Montgomery County Circuit Court in Maryland with Judge Terrence J. McGann presiding. Three of those counts were postponed because Daniel Bates, one of the victims, had a recent “serious medical procedure” according to the Judge and could not participate. Assistant States Attorney Jessica Hall indicated the State would retry Morales on those counts at a later date.
Most of Monday dealt with the selection of 12 jurors with 2 alternates. Around 2:00 PM Assistant State’s Attorney Jessica Hall and Public Defender Alan Drew gave their opening statements.
Hall argued that Morales was a respected leader in Covenant Life Church who held a position of trust and authority with access to children that he could groom to be victims. She noted that Morales was outgoing, gregarious, esteemed and trusted. Also that he was in the worship group and functioned as the unofficial youth director.
She also outlined the crimes committed against Samuel Bates, Jeremy Cook and Brian Wolohan by Morales. Each time she ended her individual summaries by saying the victims or parents went to the CLC pastors and the pastors “covered up” and “ignored the heinous crimes that had been done” to these boys.
Public Defender Drew concerned himself with dates and times and the fact that no one reported any of these crimes to the police until Samuel Bates contacted Detective Sally Magee in October 2009. He did not seek to disprove, challenge or undermined any of the allegations against Morales.
The first witness called to stand was Samuel’s and Daniel’s mother, Grace Charlene Bates. Of greatest importance, she testified they went to Grant Layman in 1992 and told him about the sexual abuse of Samuel. This fact was not disputed by the Defense. Grant was a pastor at Covenant Life Church. C.J. Mahaney was the senior pastor.
Samuel Bates was called to the stand next. He described the terrible abuses he suffered at the hands of Morales for the jury. He explained he didn’t initially tell others because of shock, shame, confusion and embarrassment. He tried to pretend it never happen. He tried to forget it ever happen. He also fought off Morales on occasions even punching him in the face.
In 1992 he told his parents, Scott and Charlene Bates about then abuse. Afterward, they went to Grant Layman and told him about the abuse. None of this was contested by the Defense Attorney Drew under cross examination. Upon completion, the court was adjoined on Monday.
Court resumed on Tuesday at 9:30 AM.
Victim Brian Wolohan was the first one called to the stand. He too described for the jury the horrors he suffered at the hand of Morales. He too stopped Morales on occasions by yelling at him, pushing him away, telling him to leave, or stating he did not want this. He told of Morales coercing him to comply with the abuse by saying he (Morales) would otherwise have to go the men’s room at the local Mall, have random sex and then die of AIDS.
Brian told an older adult, Bob Rosencrantz about Morales’ abuse in late 1991 or early 1992. Bob then told his parents, Dick and Marsha Wolohan. Dick went to one of the pastors at Covenant Life Church to tell them about the alleged abuse. He could not remember which pastor specifically. This led to a meeting with Morales in a park behind the Wolohan house with Dick and Grant Layman or Robin Boisvert. Dick couldn’t remember which one. Morales denied the sexual abuse of Brian at this time.
Dick Wolohan took the stand next. Morales went to Teen Challenge in 1992 for alcohol abuse and homosexuality. Teen Challenge was not told about his sexual abuse of children. Dick and Kevin Wolohan went to visit Morales in the summer of 1992. During this time, Morales confessed to Dick that he had sexually abused Brian Wolohan. Defense Attorney Drew did not dispute this confession.
Pamela Plaisted was next. She was engaged to Morales for a short time while the sexual abuse of these boys was transpiring. She testified that people were “drawn to Nate like a magnet” because of his charismatic personality. She also thought it odd that Morales wanted to do sleep overs with boys while they were engaged.
Grant Layman was sworn in next. Under oath he told the jury he did not report the crimes told him by Scott and Charlene Bates in 1992 that were committed by Morales against their son, Samuel Bates. He also stated that within one year, he learned of the sexual abuse of Brian Wolohan and did not report it to the police either.
Under cross examination by Morales' lawyer, Alan Drew (which was surprising), he was asked “Did you have a responsibility to report” the crimes committed against Samuel Bates and Brian Wolohan. To this Layman said, “I believe so.” Drew responded, “Did you report" to police? Layman answered, “I didn’t do it.”
It should also be added that Scott Bates, the father of Samuel and Daniel Bates, contacted the Covenant Life pastoral team again in 2007 when he learned that Morales was a pastor in Las Vegas, NV. The entire pastoral team talked about how to handle the situation with Morales. Layman was given the assignment to contact Morales. Layman talk to Morales by phone. During this conversation Morales admitted to the sexual abuse of boys but claimed he couldn’t remember the details. None of the pastors at Covenant Life Church reported this confession of sex abuse to the police. They knew Morales was a serial and predatory sex abuser.
Rachael Bates-Paci took the stand next. She is a sister to Daniel and Samuel Bates. She was the one who discovered Morales was in full time ministry. This alarmed her. She told her father, Scott, who went to the CLC pastors as stated above.
The third victim, Jeremy Cook took the stand toward the end of the day. He described the terrifying and demeaning experience of being sexually abused by Morales. He was afraid he would be ostracized by the pastors and all his friends in Covenant Life Church if they ever found out what happened. He also feared being expelled from the Christian School where Morales was a teacher and Vice Principal. Morales was in a position of power and well respected. He had no hope anyone would believe his story.
In 1993, Jeremy Cook finally told Samuel Bates and his parents about the abuse. Samuel talked to Grant Layman about the abuse of Jeremy. Layman assured Samuel that “They [the pastors] would take care of it.” Yet under oath, Jeremy said Layman “never talked” to him about the abuse. Under cross examination, Defense Attorney Drew asked Jeremy, “To the best of your knowledge did they [the pastors] take care of it” [i.e. report it to the police, etc.]. Jeremy responded with a firm, “No.”
The last person to take the stand was the lead investigator, Detective Sally Magee. She verified all the basic facts and described the times and places of her meetings with the victims and other parties.
Tomorrow morning, Nate Morales’ former wife, Marcia Jo Griffeth, will be taking the stand to testify against him. She learned of his crimes in October 2012 when he was arrested. She divorced him in December 2013. She is a wonderful woman. Tomorrow she will present evidence of his guilt.
After she finishes, either Assistant State’s Attorney Jessica Hall and/or Amanda Michalski will make closing arguments. They have been working together throughout the hearing. So will Alan Drew, the court appointed lawyer for Morales.
A few observations to close. At no time over the past two days, did Morales’ lawyer ever challenge the veracity of any of the crimes alleged by the victims. Nor did he challenge the testimony provided by Grant Layman and Dick Wolohan that Morales confessed to them that he was a sex abuser. Maybe Public Defender Drew will contest the testimony of all ten material witness tomorrow but thus far he has not done so.
I’ve been writing about the conspiracy to cover up sex abuse in Covenant Life Church and Sovereign Grace Ministries by C.J. Mahaney, Joshua Harris, Grant Layman and many other leaders. There is now NO QUESTION this has occurred. These men knew about Samuel Bates, Brian Wolohan, and Jeremy Cook. Never once did they report these crimes to the police. In each case, they "covered up ... the heinous crimes" in the words of Assistant State’s Attorney Jessica Hall.
I assume that’s why none of the pastors have attended the trial thus far. Nor has any leader or pastor from Sovereign Grace Ministries including the Executive Director, Mark Prater. I find that utterly reprehensible. The entire pastoral staff of Covenant Life Church should have attended the trial to hear the evidence against Morales and against them. Furthermore, they should have been here to support the victims and hear their anguished testimony. Tomorrow, they should be present to beg everyone’s forgiveness and begin the process of public confession, calling C.J. Mahaney to account, and making restitution to the victims.
Tomorrow afternoon the jury will begin deliberations. I will write again once the proceedings are concluded.
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