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  Judge: Priest Is Dangerous, Must Be Jailed before Trial

By Peter Franceschina
Sun-Sentinel
October 4, 2002

A federal magistrate determined Thursday that a Delray Beach priest charged for soliciting what he thought was a 14-year-old boy over the Internet for a sexual tryst is a danger to the community and a flight risk who should be held in the Palm Beach County Jail until he goes to trial.

The 14-year-old boy turned out to be an undercover Delray Beach police detective, who arrested the Rev. Elias Guimaraes, 43, when he showed up at a park for the meeting on Sept. 9. Guimaraes worked at Our Lady Queen of Peace Mission west of Delray Beach and was suspended from ministry.

In e-mails, Guimaraes bragged of having sex with a 14-year-old boy and a 16-year-old boy, according to his arrest report. Assistant U.S. Attorney Lothrop Morris revealed during Thursday's bond hearing that the younger boy is from Delray Beach and the other boy is from Boca Raton. U.S. Magistrate Judge Ann Vitunac asked him if federal investigators have been able to identify them yet.

"We are currently trying," Morris said. "We are currently looking in his America Online account. We don't have all the information yet."

Investigators seized two computers from the church after the priest's arrest. One of those computers was in Guimaraes' bedroom. Computer forensics experts are examining them for evidence.

In asking that Guimaraes be held without bond, Morris said the charge is considered to be one of violence under federal law. He also argued that the native of Brazil has no ties to the community and was set to return to Brazil in a few weeks. He said Guimaraes faces about five to six years in prison under sentencing guidelines.

"The weight of the evidence in this case is overwhelming," he said. "This defendant is a danger to the community."

Morris also prosecuted Rabbi Jerrold Levy of Boca Raton, who was sentenced to 61/2 years in prison last year in a similar case. Morris pointed out to the judge that she ordered Levy held without bond, a decision upheld by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

Defense attorney Eugene Garrett said the case amounted to two adults "talking dirty" on the Internet. "There is no threat to the community if he is under house arrest," he said, adding Guimaraes could live with a parishioner or a retired priest. About 10 parishioners came to the hearing to support Guimaraes, but none of them wanted to talk to reporters.

Garrett put a parishioner on the stand, Jerome Plummer, who said he didn't think Guimaraes was dangerous or a threat to children. Under questioning by Morris, though, he did a quick about face, saying he wouldn't want Guimaraes around his six children.

"He could be a danger?" Morris asked him. "That's a fact," Plummer replied.

Morris said Guimaraes -- who wore running shorts without underwear to the Sept. 9 meeting -- resisted arrest by struggling with officers, while Garrett said the priest simply didn't put his hands behind his back quickly enough to suit police. "It's not like he was trying to catch the bus to Tallahassee or anything," he said.

Vitunac said Guimaraes intended to meet a 14-year-old boy at the park. "You weren't quite dressed to catch a bus to Tallahassee," she said.

 
 

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