Bond Set for Priest in Abuse Charge
York County Allegations First Reported to Police by Church Authorities

By Nichole Monroe Bell
Charlotte Observer (North Carolina)
March 7, 2002

A priest arrested Tuesday on a charge of fondling a 5-year-old girl was ordered held in jail on a $25,000 bond at a Wednesday hearing.

York County Magistrate Raymond Long set the bond for Father Juan Carlos Castano and ordered the Catholic priest not to have contact with the alleged victim or her family. He also ordered Castano, who's Colombian, to turn over his passport.

Castano must pay the entire bond amount to be released from jail until his trial, or he can pay about $2,500 to a bond agency, which would ensure his appearance in court.

Although Castano has no prior convictions, the judge said he considered him a flight risk.

"My big concern is that he has no family here," Long said at the 8 a.m. hearing.

Castano, 44, was arrested Tuesday on an accusation he fondled a girl in her Rock Hill home in September of 2000. Police said the child waited more than a year before telling family members, who reported it to the church.

Police said their previous report stating that the family reported the incident to a local priest in November 2001 was incorrect. On Wednesday, police said the girl's family told a friend about the alleged incident in November 2001.

John Carroll, spokesman for the Diocese of Charleston, said the church learned of the allegation Feb. 25. The church reported the matter to police last week after determining, with the help of a private investigator, that it was credible. The church suspended Castano from public ministries.

On Wednesday, Castano stood in front of the magistrate in an orange jail uniform, using two Spanish-language interpreters to help him communicate. He said little, but indicated with a simple "yes" he understood the charge against him.

Castano's lawyer, Derek Chiarenza of Rock Hill, told the magistrate his client was not a flight risk.

"He's never been in any sort of trouble, either in Colombia or here," Chiarenza said. "It's his intention to address these allegations and address his accusers. He feels that if he left, it would be an admission of guilt."

It was unclear whether Castano would be able to raise enough money for his release. Chiarenza said his client has about $800 to his name.

Castano served the Latino communities in Rock Hill, York and Lancaster since 1999, according to a church spokesman. He had a three-year visiting status to The Oratory, a Rock Hill retreat center, that was to end in May. Castano, charged with performing a lewd act on a minor, faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.


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