Trial Again Postponed for Aurora Priest Accused of Sex Abuse of Girls
By Hannah Leone
November 17, 2017
|Alfredo Pedraza Arias (Kane County Sheriff's Office)|
The trial for an Aurora priest charged with sexually abusing girls at their Catholic church has been pushed back again, from November to February, while lawyers figure out whether the lead investigator on the case destroyed or withheld notes that could affect its outcome.
The investigator's resignation from the Kane County Child Advocacy Center has complicated legal proceedings involving his work, including that of Alfredo Pedraza Arias, a Colombia national whose lost his temporary religious worker visa after he was charged with sexually abusing two young girls at Sacred Heart Church in Aurora and one of the girls' homes between 2012 and 2014. Arias, 50, has pleaded not guilty to a five-count indictment.
Immigration officials first arrested Arias at the county's St. Charles courthouse while he was free on bond after a hearing in May; an immigration judge ordered him voluntarily deported in June; and prosecutors have sought a series of bail and custody orders in efforts to keep him here through trial. He's been back in the county jail since July 28.
Prosecutors were going to call the investigator as a witness but now aren't planning to, according to court filings.
The investigator appeared in court Nov. 8 and said he did not have any records and did not bring any records pursuant to a subpoena. Arias was also there with an interpreter and his lawyer, who asked to continue the trial, which was scheduled to start Nov. 27. Kane County Circuit Judge Linda Abrahamson rescheduled the jury trial — which has already been moved several times — to begin Feb. 20.
Prosecutors had asked Abrahamson to quash Arias' lawyer's subpoena for the investigator, arguing that witnesses can't be coerced to come to court for discovery purposes. To their understanding, the subpoena was for information from the investigator "concerning shredded documents that are at issue," according to the motion, submitted by Assistant State's Attorney Reagan Pittman. But the judge allowed the subpoena.
It has not been made clear exactly how many cases may be affected by the investigator's departure. In at least two cases, court filings indicate the investigator may have shredded documents related to his investigation. One of the cases involves a Batavia man, Joel Becerril, who was convicted in an August bench trial of sexually assaulting a young child he knew.
In similar motions, a lawyer for both Arias and Becerril asked the judge to make prosecutors explain the assertion that there may have been notes related to the Arias case that were destroyed, and for copies of any records referencing the internal investigation of the investigator.
Attorney David Camic also asked for the judge to make the state's attorney's office say whether the investigator will be criminally prosecuted for any of his actions and whether they know of any other agency investigating him, and to disclose any agreement between the state's attorney's office and the investigator related to his employment or how it ended.
In a one-sentence letter to Kane County State's Attorney Joseph McMahon dated Sept. 18, the investigator wrote that his resignation was effective that day.
Referencing a discussion between himself and the investigator earlier that day, McMahon accepted the resignation effective immediately in a letter telling the investigator to return various county property and that the office would pack his personal belongings and have them delivered to him.
Before the Kane County state's attorney hired him in 2002, the investigator had been a Chicago police officer since December 2000, according to records in his personnel file.
Since the Beacon-News originally reported on the investigator, court filings have revealed more information about the situation.
Prosecutors notified Arias that a witness in the case — the investigator — had been keeping notes separate and apart from official records, which they knew about because they "discovered" the notes at his work station.
Hundreds of pages of recently disclosed notes include references to Arias and the prosecution of his case, his lawyer stated.
Prosecutors said the investigator may have tried to destroy other notes and invited the defense to look at shredded papers, according to a memo Camic filed last week.