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Judge McGann Calls Nathaniel Morales a "Cowardly Pervert"

Judge calls former church youth group leader Nathaniel Morales a ‘cowardly pervert’ before sentencing him to 40 years in prison 

By Brianne Carter, Kevin Lewis
August 14, 2014 - 05:52 am
Updated: August 14, 2014 - 07:50 pm 

ROCKVILLE, Md. (WJLA) - A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge chastised a former youth group leader Thursday, calling him a “cowardly pervert” and “pathetic human being.” 

Judge Terrance McGann sentenced Nathaniel Morales, 56, to 40 years in state prison for molesting at least four boys during the 1980s.  The abuse occurred while Morales ministered at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg. 

Then in his mid-20s, Morales led youth Bible studies, directed worship teams, and even attended sleepovers with the male teens he mentored. 

Morales' middle-of-the-night attacks went undetected for years, because he exhumed trustworthiness and charm. 

Following what many described as a long-overdue sentencing, victim Jeremy Cook, now a married man with three children, spoke publicly. 

“This was not a one-time thing, there was a pattern.  This is someone who won’t change,” Cook stated.  “To see justice served, and to see a predator taken off the street, is worth all of this.” 

Cook, who now resides in Raleigh, N.C., was only a teenager when Morales abused him around 50 times during church-related sleepovers. 

“He [Morales] acted as a predator.  He found ways to get access to children and then abused them over the course of years,” Cook added.  “He was a chameleon.” 

Shortly after police filed charges against Morales in July 2011, the self-proclaimed “man of God” told investigators he suffered from severe memory loss.  The 56-year-old said his medical disability prevented him from recalling the period of time when the abuse occurred. 

“I find that to be utterly unthinkable,” said Pam Plaisted, who had a short engagement to Morales during the late 1980.  “All of us who were there [in court] wanted to say, ‘Come on!  You really are not faking this!’”

Judge McGann didn’t buy what the former minister was preaching either, saying: “You can’t even bring your despicable self to admit your crime.  So, you hide behind your phony self-diagnosis of amnesia.  Mr. Morales, you are one pathetic human being.”

Morales’ public defender, Alan Drew, asked Judge McGann for leniency, citing, among other items, a clinical study that found his client’s chance of re-offending was, “low-to-moderate.”

“Even though he [Morales] doesn’t remember any of these events, it’s certainly had an impact on him,” Drew stated.  “He is now 56, and the likelihood of him committing other offenses of this character, I think, are rather small.”

“I don't believe your insatiable appetite for boys can be cured.  Your wires are permanently twisted.  Your conduct has had a profound and lasting deleterious effect,” Judge McGann replied.  “A long sentence is the only way to adequately punish you, protect society from you and deter other potential boy molesters.”

Morales, who remained stoic in court, with no show of emotion on his face, chose not to make a statement, or issue an apology to his victims seated a few feet away.

“Here’s someone who can’t hurt anyone else again.  He’ll be put away, it protects others and that’s the most important thing to me,” Cook concluded.

Cook and his fellow victims, now all grown men, are also upset with former church elders at Covenant Life Church who, investigators say, tried to cover-up Morales’ sexual abuse for decades.  Cook tells ABC 7 News their concealment is something they’ll have to live with the rest of their lives.

[Clink here for ABC 7 WJLA TV report]


Sex Abuser Nathaniel Morales Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison

Nathaniel Morales abused a great number of boys in the New Testament Church, Montgomery County Covenant Academy and Covenant Life Church in Maryland from 1980 until 1992.  

He was investigated starting in October 2009, arrested in October 2012, tried and found guilty on seven of eight counts of sexual abuse and offense against four boys in May 2014, and sentenced today to 40 years in prison. 

C.J. Mahaney, John Loftness, Gary Ricucci, Grant Layman and other pastors at Covenant Life Church knew about these crimes but conspired to cover them up.  They agreed not to report a known sexual predator to law enforcement officials.  As a result of their criminal dereliction, Morales went on to abuse an even greater number of boys in multiple cities in different parts of the United States over the next 20 years.   

Morales left Covenant Life Church in 1992 and married Marcia Jo Griffeth in 1994.  She had no idea he was predatory sex abuser.  Marcia had five boys from a previous marriage.  Morales sexually abused two of them.  She only discovered the extent of his crimes after he was arrested.  She divorced him in December 2013. None of the pastors from CLC have ever contacted her to ask forgiveness or make restitution.

Nathaniel Morales received justice today.  He is 56 years old and will never see the light of day which was the goal of prosecutors.  The conspirators who protected Morales have not yet received justice for their crimes. 

The victims of Morales heinous crimes are glad to see this day but the harms against them can never be forgotten.  Morales is typical of sex abusers in church settings.  The Church and its pastors needs to be educated by experts in the field.  All suspected child abuse must be immediately reported to police.

Thank you Jeremy Cook, Sam Bates., Brian Wolohan and David Tapia for courageously testifying against your abuser.  Thank you Marcia Jo Griffeth for being willing to testify against your former husband.  Thanks to everyone else who supplied supporting testimony and to the other victims who were willing to testify, namely Daniel Bates and James Roberts.  Nate will never harm another child because of your efforts.  

Layman resigned from pastoral ministry at Covenant Life Church after 23 years in April 2014.  Sovereign Grace Ministries continues to highly commend Mahaney, Loftness and Ricucci and taken no action against them. 

The same is true of well-known evangelical leaders like Al Mohler, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan from Together for the Gospel and D.A. Carson, Kevin DeYoung, Justin Taylor from The Gospel Coalition.  Both groups posted letters on their respective websites in May 2013 defending Mahaney against all charges found in the civil lawsuit against him.  They have never retracted those statements. 

Much more needs to be said about the cover up of sex crimes in Covenant Life Church and Sovereign Grace Ministries.  I plan to say it a few weeks from now.


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