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 exuded 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 1980s. “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.”
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Brianne Carter, Kevin Lewis