Extradition Hearing Set for Nevada Priest

By Amanda Lee Myers
Mohave Daily News [Phoenix AZ]
February 3, 2007

A Roman Catholic priest must decide Tuesday whether he will fight extradition to Nevada, where he faces charges of beating and sexually assaulting a female employee at his Las Vegas parish.

The Rev. George Chaanine, 52, is scheduled for a fugitive of justice hearing at 8 a.m. Tuesday in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix.

Chaanine was arrested Thursday in Apache Junction about 30 miles east of Phoenix. He is wanted in Las Vegas on charges of attempted murder, sexual assault, kidnapping and battery with a deadly weapon in the Jan. 26 incident.

Chaanine is being held in a Phoenix jail on a $1 million bond on a charge of being a fugitive from justice. FBI Special Agent David Staretz said a federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution would be dropped so Chaanine could be extradited to Las Vegas to face the more serious Nevada charges.

The priest had been in Monterey, Calif., on Tuesday, where bank security videotape released Thursday by police showed Chaanine making a withdrawal from a Bank of America branch. A probable cause statement filed in the Phoenix court said he withdrew a large amount of money but didn't specify how much.

Las Vegas police Lt. Ted Lee said it was not yet clear where Chaanine had been between Tuesday and Thursday, when police received a tip that he was in the Phoenix area.

Lee declined Friday to discuss specifics of how Chaanine was tracked. "We received a tip, we acted on it and we caught him," he said.

Chaanine had an initial appearance in Phoenix late Thursday. The priest on Friday refused an interview request made by The Associated Press.

It remained unclear Friday whether Chaanine had a lawyer, but officials said defendants do not need lawyers for fugitive of justice hearings.

Chaanine could face life in prison if he is convicted of the most serious attempted murder, kidnapping and sex assault charges, said Tom Carroll, a chief deputy Clark County district attorney.

Carroll said prosecutors in Las Vegas had not been contacted by a lawyer on Chaanine's behalf.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.