Priest Admits Guilt in Sex Case
Internet Talks Led to Arrest in Sept. 2002
By Megan O'Matz and Peter Franceschina
Sun-Sentinel [Fort Lauderdale FL]
January 16, 2003
A Palm Beach County priest admitted in court Wednesday he intended to have sex with a 14-year-old boy he met over the Internet, but only after initially telling the judge he just wanted to talk to the teen.
The Rev. Elias Guimaraes, 44, pleaded guilty in federal court in Fort Lauderdale to trying to solicit a minor over the Internet for sex.
The priest apologized to the court for arranging a rendezvous in September with a Delray Beach detective, who was posing as the 14-year-old in an America Online chat room.
At first, Guimaraes told the judge he simply wanted to meet the youth.
"On my part, it was more of a curiosity than anything of a sexual act," Guimaraes said.
Advised that the court could not accept his guilty plea if he did not intend to have sex with the child, Guimaraes consulted with his lawyer and, after a brief recess, apologized, saying: "I didn't remember a few things."
Specifically, the priest said he and the "boy" arranged to meet in Delray Beach and "we did mention if it was agreed between the two of us we may have sexual relations." The priest said the two discussed plans to "touch each other and perhaps masturbate and perhaps also oral sex."
"I recognize I am guilty, and I am sorry for it," Guimaraes said during the appearance before U.S. Chief District Judge William Zloch.
Zloch will sentence Guimaraes on April 4. He faces up to 15 years in prison, though the United States Attorney's Office estimates he will receive between 24 and 30 months based on federal sentencing guidelines.
The Diocese of Palm Beach released a statement saying it was relieved the court action against Guimaraes was ending.
Guimaraes, former associate pastor at Our Lady Queen of Peace Mission west of Delray Beach, carried on sexually explicit e-mail correspondence from Aug. 30 to Sept. 9 with the undercover detective.
Assistant U.S. Attorney A. Lothrop Morris said Guimaraes boasted in the exchanges of having had sex in the past with a 16-year-old boy and with another 14-year-old boy.
On Sept 9, Morris said, Guimaraes wrote about sex acts he planned to perform with the "teenager." The pair set up a meeting, and Guimaraes was arrested.
Police seized the priest's computers, documents and records at his residence Sept. 11.
A native of Brazil, Guimaraes was ordained a Roman Catholic priest nine years ago. He came to the Palm Beach Diocese in March 2001, starting at Our Lady Queen of Apostles in Royal Palm Beach before working at Our Lady Queen of Peace Mission, according to the diocese.
Sam Barbaro, a spokesman for the Diocese of Palm Beach, said Guimaraes would not be allowed to serve as a priest in the diocese again.
"He hasn't functioned in ministry since he was arrested," Barbaro said.
In a separate case, a Miami-Dade County judge decided to let Jose Albino Currais Jr., 45, go forward with a lawsuit against two South Florida priests alleging that they sexually abused him 30 years ago.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Ronald Friedman signed an order Friday denying a request by priests Alvaro Guichard and Ricardo Castellanos as well as the Archdiocese of Miami to dismiss the suit because the statute of limitations was up.
Generally, negligence lawsuits have to be filed within four years and sexual assault suits within seven years of the victim turning 18, said Hollywood lawyer Jeffrey Herman, who argued those limits don't apply in this case.
Attorneys for the priests have maintained they are innocent of the accusations.
Friedman ruled there are "sufficient issues" raised in the suit to allow Herman to start taking depositions and request documents from the archdiocese, but he also noted there are credible defenses that could result in the suit being dismissed at a later date.
"I think this is a major victory," Herman said. "I think my client is going to get his day in court."
Staff Writer Peter Franceschina contributed to this report.
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