A deposed Episcopal priest has posted bail for Bishop Heather Cook who is facing vehicular manslaughter, DUI, and other charges, in the death of Thomas Palermo on December 27. Cook has been released from jail and is scheduled to appear in District Court on February 6th for criminal indictment.
Her bail was posted by Mark H. Hansen, a deposed Episcopal priest who now now serves as a “lay pastor” of St. Clement’s Episcopal Church, Massey, Maryland, in the Diocese of Easton (Maryland). Hansen was inhibited then deposed in 2005 by Bishop Andrew Smith of Connecticut for abandonment of the communion. Hansen is described in the autobiography that Cook provided before her election as “a steady companion” for the two years leading up to her nomination.
Both the Baltimore Sun and the Baltimore Brew report that Cook was headed to an inpatient treatment facility after her release.
Cook and Hansen attended General Theological Seminary in New York at the same time in the 1980s, according to the school’s website, and Hansen participated in Cook’s consecration ceremony last September.
Hansen posted $35,000 of collateral and signed a $215,000 promissory note to meet the 10% requirement of the $2.5 million bail for Bishop Cook, who was jailed last Friday on manslaughter and drunk driving charges stemming from a car crash that killed bicyclist Thomas Palermo.
Reached this afternoon, Hansen said, “I’m not talking to the press, OK? We have an attorney.”
Only one condition is required of Bishop Cook under the terms of today’s bail: “Do not drive while pending trial.”
Arinze Ifekauche, spokesman for State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, confirmed that Cook “is not on pretrial supervision.”
It is not known where Cook will go after her release today. After the fatal crash with Palermo, Cook stayed at Father Martin’s Ashley, an alcohol treatment center near Havre de Grace, before she was jailed last Friday.
The Baltimore Sun reported that Cook had entered a 28-day treatment program after the December crash that killed bicyclist Thomas Palermo. In a hearing on January 12,
[Cook’s attorney, attorney, Jose A.] Molina asked Klein to lower Cook’s [$2.5 million] bail to $500,000 and allow her to continue with residential treatment or home monitoring. He promised she would not drive.
The $2.5 million bail, which Molina said Cook could not pay, was upheld:
District Court Judge Nicole Pastore Klein rejected a request from prosecutors to deny bail, but also disagreed with Cook’s attorney that her bail should be lowered. Klein said the allegations against Cook show a “reckless and careless indifference to life.”
“I can’t trust her judgment if released,” Klein said.
Both the Baltimore Sun and the Baltimore Brew reported Hansen’s presence at the initial court proceedings, and that the Diocese of Maryland was not part of any bail arrangement. The Sun:
A spokeswoman for the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland described Hansen as a friend of Cook’s. Spokeswoman Sharon Tillman said the church was not involved in the bail payment but was “grateful that she’ll now be able to resume treatment.”
Hansen signed a promissory note agreeing to pay $215,000 in monthly installments of $1,000, records show. If Cook fails to appear in court, Hansen could be on the hook for the full $2.5 million.
Hansen attended Cook’s bail review hearing Monday but declined to talk to a reporter. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.
In other developments, the Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, Bishop of Maryland, wrote a pastoral letter to the Diocese dated January 13 and reported in the Baltimore Brew.
Bishop Sutton asks the question, “What do we do with our grief?” Bishop Sutton was presiding as bishop when Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook was elected in the Diocese of Maryland, and was aware of her 2010 DUI arrest.
There are still too many questions for which there are no easy answers, and we are filled with anger, bitterness, pain and tears. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Palermo family in their bereavement and for ourselves as a diocese in mourning. And we continue to pray for our sister Heather in this time of her tremendous grief and sorrow, knowing the Episcopal Church’s “Title IV” disciplinary process is underway to consider consequences for her actions as well as review the process that resulted in her election.
Bishop Sutton lists five practices that are helping him through his own feelings of grief and sense of responsibility: prayer, being vulnerable rather than defensive, trust in the Spirit, be patient in the recognition that we cannot “simply fix problems on our own,” and acceptance:
After discussing this tragedy with some of my bishop colleagues for over an hour and being held up in prayer by them, one said, “Eugene, I am the child of an alcoholic and I’ve spent many years dealing with that and coming to understand the hold that alcohol has on someone who is addicted to it. I want to tell you that the Diocese of Maryland is not responsible for the terrible accident that killed that bicyclist. You are not responsible for that; Heather Cook is. It’s not your fault.” I burst into tears. I hadn’t realized how much I had internalized the weight of responsibility for the tragedy, the sense of shame, and the desperate need to make it all better. Later, praying before the Icon of Christ the Pantocrater, I gazed into those piercing eyes of our Lord, asking: What is Christ wanting to say to me? And what did I want to say to him? After what seemed like an eternity, I was finally able to gaze into his eyes and say: “Lord, it’s not your fault.” And both of us cried.
His letter is posted on the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland’s website here.
Posted by Cara Modisett and Andrew Gerns