A former youth leader with Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg was sentenced to 40 years in prison Thursday for sexually abusing four boys in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Nathaniel Morales, 56, a former Germantown resident who moved to Las Vegas, was convicted in back-to-back trials in May. The first trial involved three boys who attended the now-defunct Montgomery County Covenant Academy, where Morales was a teacher. The second involved another boy who attended a Washington, D.C., church with Morales in the early 1980s.
The boys, now adults, testified that Morales molested them at group sleepovers, in their homes and at a church retreat. Thursday’s sentencing hearing applied to both trials.
The Gazette does not usually name victims of sex crimes.
Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Terrence J. McGann called Morales a “pathetic human being” and said a long sentence was the only way to punish him, protect society and deter other potential molestors.
Morales’s attorney, Alan Drew, argued that the likelihood of Morales committing further offenses was rather small. Drew pointed to a court-ordered psychological evaluation that indicated Morales posed only a low to moderate risk of offending again.
Assistant State’s Attorney Amanda Michalski disagreed with that assessment, arguing that since the abuse occurred over a period of several years, Morales had already showed that there was a risk he’d offend again.
Michalski described Morales as a sexual predator who put himself in a position of trust and authority over the boys, then took advantage of them. She disputed the defense’s claim that Morales did not remember the incidents of abuse, saying that testimony during the trial indicated that Morales had discussed the incidents with a church leader in 2007.
McGann dismissed Morales’s “phony self-diagnosis of amnesia” before delivering his sentence, which amounted to 10 years imprisonment per victim.
In the case of the three boys, Morales was convicted of three counts of sexual abuse of a minor and two counts of second-degree sexual offence. He was given 10 years in prison for each count, some of which is to be served concurrently.
In the case of the single boy, Morales was convicted of one count of sexual abuse of a minor and one count of third-degree sexual offense; he was given two 10-year sentences, to be served consecutively with the other sentences for a total, effective sentence of 40 years.
Morales will be eligible for parole after serving half that time, Michalski said.
Drew said he planned to appeal the sentence.
One of Morales’s victims, Jeremy Cook, spoke with reporters at a news conference with prosecutors after the hearing and said the sentence was fair. “It’s a significant period of time that he has to serve, and hopefully it will keep him from hurting anyone else again,” he said.
During the hearing, Cook, a former Gaithersburg resident, told the court that he would have to deal with abuse until the day that he died. “It is a life sentence,” Cook said.