Priest Flees U.S. before Sex Crime Sentencing

Salt Lake Tribune (Utah)
November 5, 2003

OGDEN — A Catholic priest who pleaded no contest to a class A misdemeanor for cruising the Internet to meet boy sex partners was a no-show at his Tuesday sentencing hearing.

Prosecutor Gary Heward had been prepared to argue Mario Arbelaez Olarte should spend a year in jail, followed by deportation to Colombia.

But defense attorney Bernie Allen surprised the court by announcing the priest had already returned to his native country.

Allen claimed the prosecutor, as part of a plea-bargain agreement worked out in September, had agreed Arbelaez Olarte could leave the country. Heward insisted there was no such agreement.

Second District Judge Scott Hadley issued a no-bail warrant for the priest's arrest and set another sentencing hearing for Nov. 18, at which time he could sentence the priest in absentia.

Allen told news reporters the priest would not be returning to the United States. "He's gone," Allen said. "He left Friday."

On May 14, 2003, Arbelaez Olarte, 44, posing as a 20-year-old man, entered a gay online chat room and began conversing with a sheriff's officer who was posing as a 15-year-old boy.

Arbelaez Olarte was arrested later that night after agreeing to meet the "boy" several blocks from Ogden's St. Joseph's Catholic Church, where the priest was living.

Allen said Arbelaez Olarte continues to assert he was conducting research for an upcoming presentation to a youth group, and that he never intended to engage in sex acts.

Heward said Arbelaez Olarte went beyond research by spending "months" talking about sex acts in chat rooms.


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