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  Miami Priest Arrested on Perjury Charge

By Barbara Walsh and Lyda Longa
The Sun-Sentinel
April 3, 1993

The Rev. Roman Juan O'Farrill, a retired Catholic priest well-known for his anti-Castro activism, was arrested late Thursday night at his Miami home on a perjury charge.

Prosecutors said O'Farrill, who has a street named after him in Little Havana, lied in a June 1992 sworn deposition to the Dade State Attorney's Office.

O'Farrill, 77, offered an alibi for a 19-year-old Miami man charged in a strong-armed robbery, Dade County assistant state attorney Michael Band said.

O'Farrill "said he had breakfast with the kid," Band said. "The kid later indicated when he entered a plea that he was involved in the robbery and that the alibi of the priest was untrue."

Band said he was unsure of why the priest would lie or what the relationship was between O'Farrill and the suspect, who pleaded guilty to strong-armed robbery. Band, who is handling O'Farrill's case, did not know when the plea occurred.

Detective Joe Rimondi, of the Miami police's gang unit, said it was not clear how O'Farrill and the younger man met.

"That's still under investigation," Rimondi said.

Police arrested O'Farrill at 10:30 p.m. at his home in the 2100 block of Southwest 16th Avenue. The priest had just returned from celebrating Mass at St. Michael the Archangel Church, where he formerly was on staff. He still keeps an office there.

O'Farrill, who was ordained in 1945 and retired in 1983, was released early Friday morning on $ 1,500 bail, police said.

If O'Farrill was convicted of perjury, he could face a maximum five-year prison sentence, Band said.

"But in reality, it would probably be probation," Band said.

The Archdiocese of Miami issued a statement on Friday, saying that O'Farrill has been a dedicated member of the clergy and an outstanding priest in the South Florida community.

"It certainly was a shocking and sad moment last night when the Archdiocese of Miami officials were notified that one of its priests was in the process of being arrested on perjury charges," the news release said. "(We) are cooperating fully with civil authorities. ... At all times we look to console the hurts that have occurred in this event and others that may follow."

On Friday, as O'Farrill left St. Michael the Archangel Church in northwest Miami, the priest denied that he had lied to prosecutors. He told television reporters that the charges against him were politically motivated.

"This is all false, a bunch of lies," O'Farrill said on WPLG-Ch. 10 news. "It's a coincidence that I appeared on a few radio station talk shows this week and I got a call from someone who said he wanted to cut my tongue out."

O'Farrill, known for his fervent speeches against Cuban President Fidel Castro, is a beloved figure in Miami's Cuban community.

O'Farrill was one of the first Cuban priests to leave Cuba when Castro took over in 1958. He came to Miami and spent the past 35 years speaking on radio shows and at rallies against Castro's regime.

A section of Northeast Second Street in Little Havana is named Padre O'Farrill Street in honor of the priest's activism.

Those who have known O'Farrill for several years said they, too, thought that someone wanted to hurt the priest because of his political views.

"This is a very honest and respected man," said Jose Carreno, a news editor at Spanish language radio WQBA-1140 AM in Miami. Carreno, who met O'Farrill in 1980, said the priest visits the radio station weekly.

"Someone wants to undermine everything that priest has worked for and stood for in this community," Carreno said.

 
 

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