Fr. Aaron Joseph Cote – Archdiocese of Washington

| Jun 4, 2019 | Abuser Profiles, Catholic Church

Father Aaron Joseph Cote

Archdiocese of Washington

Ordained: 1986

Removed: 2005

Died: 2012

Assigned as follows:

  • St. Pius V Church (Providence, Rhode Island)
  • Mother Seton Church (Germantown, Maryland)
  • St. Jane Frances de Chantel (Bethesda, Maryland)
  • St. Dominic Church and Priory (Washington, D.C.)
  • Holy Trinity Church (Somerset, Ohio)
  • St. Theresa’s Parish (South Hadley, Massachusetts)
  • St. Mary’s Parish (Westfield, Massachusetts)

Summary of Abuse Allegations against Father Aaron Joseph Cote:

According to media reports, in November 2005, an 18-year old male filed a civil lawsuit claiming that Father Aaron Joseph Cote had sexually molested him as a minor child. The Order of Dominican Fathers and Brothers and the Archbishop of Washington were also named in the suit. Father Cote was placed on administrative leave when the suit was filed.

The suit claims Father Cote abused the teen several times during 2001 and 2002 when he was an altar boy at 14 and 15 years old. The alleged abuse which included showing the teen pornography, occurred in a Germantown, Maryland apartment and a Washington, D.C., hotel where the teen went on a retreat with Father Cote and other church youth, according to the boy’s stepfather.

County police said the youth reported the alleged abuse to detectives in August 2003, but no charges were filed due to lack of evidence. After the allegations were made, the Order of Dominican Fathers and Brothers sent Father Cote for psychological evaluation, conducted an investigation and cleared him, according to church officials. Three months later, he was transferred to Rhode Island where he served as youth minister at a church in Providence.

During the discovery process of the Germantown lawsuit, it was learned that the vicar provincial of Father Cote’s Dominican order knew of at least two allegations involving Father Cote in Ohio, dating back to 1988. In June 2005, a teacher in Somerset, Ohio reported to Father Cote’s Dominican superiors an allegation that her former student recently had confided to her that Father Cote had molested him in, Somerset Ohio, between 1986 and 1989.

Moreover, a January 1991, letter to Father Cote’s superiors in Chimbote, Peru, where he served from 1989 to 1990, mentioned accusations and letters of concern from the community there. It raised questions about Father Cote allowing young boys into his private quarters and engaging in “inappropriate behavior”. No criminal charges were filed in those instances.

In August 2007, the case was settled and the Order of Dominican Fathers and Brothers paid the victim $1.2 million. There was no admission of wrongdoing in the settlement.

In April 2008, a Massachusetts family filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court, alleging that Father Cote molested their two preschool boys in 2003. The lawsuit names Father Cote and the Order of Dominican Fathers and Brothers in New York City as defendants. The boys, who were ages 2 and 4 when the alleged abuse began, told their mother about the incidents in 2006, while the Germantown lawsuit was in court. The Dominicans did not mention this new allegation in their sworn testimony in the Germantown suit.

In July 2008, the first criminal charges in the Massachusetts suit were filed. In July 2009, Father Cote was found guilty. He received no jail time as a result of agreeing to a plea bargain.

In November 2009, he was sentenced to complete counseling and serve 10 years probation, five of it supervised, in New York.  According to the sentence, Father Cote was also required to register as a sex offender, complete sex offender treatment, and not work or have any unsupervised contact with minors.

In 2012, Father Cote died.

In October 2018, Father Cote’s name appeared publicly on the Archdiocese of Washington’s list of clergy credibly accused of sex abuse of minors.

In late 2018, Father Cote’s name appeared publicly on the Dominicans St. Joseph Province list of clergy credibly accused of sex abuse of minors.

In March 2019, Father Cote’s name appeared on the Diocese of Columbus’ list of clergy credibly accused of sex abuse of minors.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Archdiocese of Washington.  If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Washington, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Archdiocese of Washington now have legal options to recover damages due to a compensation fund created for victims. Call us at 888-283-9922 or send an email to [email protected] to discuss your options today.