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Bishop Cook posts $2.5M bond, released from jail

Bishop Heather Cook posts $2.5 million bond, will return to inpatient treatment facility.

The Episcopal bishop accused of killing a local cyclist while driving drunk and texting last month was released from Central Booking on Thursday after posting $2.5 million bail — an amount her attorney said earlier in the week that she would not be able to meet.

Attorney David Irwin said Bishop Heather Elizabeth Cook was headed to an inpatient treatment facility, and that as a condition of her release she was not permitted to drive.

Her bail was paid by a bondsman after receiving a $35,000 check from Mark H. Hansen, a former pastor in Connecticut who was defrocked after he opposed the election of gay bishops there.

Cook was charged last week with manslaughter, driving under the influence of alcohol, texting while driving and other violations in the death of cyclist Thomas Palermo on Dec. 27 on Roland Avenue.

Authorities say Cook had a blood-alcohol level of 0.22 percent — more than twice the legal limit in Maryland — and left the scene of the crash before returning some 30 minutes later.

Palermo, 41, was married with two young children. Cyclists have followed Cook's case closely.

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, who lives in Millington on the Eastern Shore, is executive director of the St. Paul's Cathedral Trust in America, a nonprofit that supports the London cathedral. His LinkedIn profile also lists him as a "lay pastor" at St. Clement's Episcopal Church in Kent County.

Cook, who served on the Eastern Shore for 10 years, is listed on the St. Paul's Cathedral Trust website as a donor who gave more than $1,000.

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.

Cook had been jailed at Central Booking since last Friday. At her bail review hearing, Assistant State's Attorney Kurt Bjorklund asked District Judge Nicole Pastore Klein to revoke bail. One of Cook's defense attorneys, Jose A. Molina, asked that it be lowered to $500,000.

Molina told Klein that Cook was not a flight risk. If she were released, he said, she would enroll in alcohol treatment. She had been at the Father Martin's Ashley facility in Havre de Grace between the crash and her arrest.

Klein denied the request. She said the allegations against Cook suggested a "reckless and careless indifference to life."

Cook was released Thursday.

Though the next step is typically a criminal indictment in Circuit Court, Klein has scheduled a hearing for Feb. 6 in District Court.

The Maryland Diocese is investigating Cook's election last year as bishop suffragan, its second-highest leader.

Cook pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol in Caroline County in 2010, when she registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.27 percent. A committee that vetted candidates for bishop knew of the arrest, but the information was not passed on to the delegates who voted.

Hansen became known as one of the "Connecticut Six" in 2003 for opposing a bishop's support for the election of a gay bishop.

The case attracted national attention. Hansen and five other priests stopped forwarding dues to the diocese and requested supervision from a different bishop, according to The New York Times.

In 2005, Hansen was accused of taking an unauthorized sabbatical and was suspended from his duties as rector of a church in Bristol, Conn.

He was barred from leading any parish in the state for six months and was eventually defrocked, The Hartford Courant reported.

Parishioners filed a federal lawsuit against the leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut. They claimed Bishop Andrew D. Smith acted illegally when the diocese seized control of Hansen's church. The lawsuit was thrown out.

Last week, the leaders of the Connecticut Diocese expressed "deep sadness" at the death of Palermo, which they said was "magnified" by the charges against Cook.

"This is a profound tragedy for all involved, and especially for the Palermo family, Bishop Cook, and the leaders and people of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland," Bishop Ian T. Douglas and Bishop Suffragan Laura J. Ahrens wrote in a message on the diocesan website.

jfenton@baltsun.com

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