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What Did the Covenant Life Pastors Know about Morales & When Did They Know It? 

In a few weeks, I’ll be publishing a work answering that question and many other questions concerning the criminal conspiracy to protect sexual predators that was headed up by C.J. Mahaney at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD.  The members of Covenant Life deserve answers but they have received none.  For nearly two years, their pastors have refused to answer their questions.  

Here’s a good article from The Washington Post that highlights this issue. 

Montgomery judge sentences sex abuser to 40 years, calls him ‘pathetic human being’
By Dan Morse 
The Washington Post
August 14, 2014 

Jeremy Cook was 15 when Nathanial Morales started sexually abusing him. 

“What he did shook my world,” the 40-year-old told a Montgomery County judge Thursday.  “Trust issues.  Relationship issues.  Belief.  Faith. . . . It’s a constant, everyday thing.” 

The judge was set to decide how much prison time to give Morales, who in the 1980s was a charismatic member of Covenant Life Church.  Morales sang on the stage at services and helped lead youth Bible studies.  He also sexually abused four teenage boys during the 1980s before leaving the area and settling in Las Vegas. 

The three other victims also told their stories to the judge, in written statements. 

“I trust no one,” wrote a 45-year-old.  “Very painful,” wrote a 40-year-old.  “My ability to love my wife as fully as I would like has been a huge after-effect,” wrote a 43-yar-old.  

Nathanial Morales
(Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office) 

Circuit Court Judge Terrence McGann took it all in.  He sentenced Morales to 40 years, saying it would have been easier for the victims if Morales had broken their jaws, because those injuries could heal. 

“The scars,” he said of the cases before him, “are just as deep as they were back in the ’80s and the ’90s.” 

The judge was scathing in his opinion of Morales, including Morales’s earlier claim that he didn’t remember what happened. 

“You can’t even bring your despicable self to admit your crime, so you hide behind your phony, self-diagnosis of amnesia,” McGann said. “Mr. Morales, you are one pathetic human being.” 

Three of the victims attended Covenant Life when Morales was there.  And the case, which police began investigating in 2009 after one of the victims came to them, has been difficult for church members.  Many have wrestled with competing narratives of what church leaders knew 25 years ago. 

Last year, as news of the case broke, leaders released a statement saying they weren’t aware of the abuse until many years after it occurred.  But in May of this year, testimony at one of Morales’s trials revealed that church leaders were told about three of the victims in the early 1990s, but did not call the police. 

“We want to know what happened,” said Pam Plaisted, a member of Covenant Life since 1982, who went to the sentencing hearing with her husband, Steve. 

Church pastors have addressed the case from the pulpit, at one point offering to go on leaves of absence if that was the wish of leadership committees.  It was not, and the pastors have remained. 

Several of the top ministers came to the church after the Morales controversy.  And many members, including the Plaisteds, are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt — at least until they hear answers to their questions. “We want to know what they knew and when they knew it,” Pam Plaisted said. 

Covenant Life leaders have declined requests to discuss the controversy, citing litigation facing the church.  But they released a statement Thursday after the sentencing: 

“As a church we are deeply saddened that children have been abused and victimized in the grievous ways described in the Morales trial.  We believe those who testified did so with courage, and we continue to pray for the Lord’s mercy, comfort and healing grace in their lives and those of all victims.  We are grateful to see justice done in today’s sentencing.” 

Morales did not speak at the sentencing hearing Thursday.  His attorney, Alan Drew, asked for a sentence of less than 20 years and said Morales would be amenable to sex-offender-type treatment. 

Prosecutor Amanda Michalski then detailed Morales’s crimes, noting their impact on the victims. (The Washington Post generally does not identify victims of sex crimes.  In this case, Jeremy Cook gave permission to be identified.) 

Cook asked McGann to impose a lengthy sentence. 

“The reason I am here today is so that he can never have the opportunity to hurt someone else,” Cook said. 

In an interview after the hearing, Cook said one reason he has been so public about what happened to him is to let victims know that it is never too late for them to step forward.  Over the past two years, he said, about a half-dozen people have told him that they have done just that. 

“It shows you that even from something horrible, something good can come out,” Cook said.


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]