Priest Sentenced to 51 Months in Teen Sex Case

By Gariot Louima
Palm Beach Post [Florida]
April 8, 2003

A Catholic priest was sentenced to more than four years in federal prison Monday for arranging to meet with what he thought was a 14-year-old boy for sex in Delray Beach.

"I'm very sorry. I regret it very much," said the Rev. Elias Francisco Guimaraes, 43, through a Portuguese interpreter. "I would like to say I'm sorry if I've offended anyone."

Calling the recent spate of arrests of priests accused of sexual misconduct with minors a "curse upon the Catholic Church," U.S. District Court Judge William Zloch sentenced Guimaraes to 51 months in federal prison, followed by three years of probation. Guimaraes had pleaded guilty to a charge of attempting to entice a minor to have sex.

"We can be grateful that it was an undercover agent at the other end of the line, rather than a 16-year-old who was ready to be corrupted," Zloch said.

Guimaraes is prohibited from having unsupervised contact with children, buying or being in possession of "any visual depiction of minors or adults engaging in explicit sexual conduct," or working with an organization that serves children, Zloch said.

After completing his sentence, he will be turned over to the State Department for deportation proceedings.

About a dozen parishioners from Our Lady Queen of Peace Mission attended the sentencing to support the man they still call "Father Elias" and describe as "very good, supportive and generous in his work."

The Rev. Matthew Didone, who served with Guimaraes at the suburban Delray Beach church, told the court he never saw anything "strange" in Guimaraes' behavior.

"It was a big surprise to find out about this," Didone said. "I still think that it was not his behavior to do this. I think it was a mistake . . . probably out of curiosity for an experience."

Delray Beach police arrested Guimaraes in September while he was on his way to meet an undercover police officer who had posed as a boy during 11 days of Internet conversations.

In 21 sexually explicit discussions, Guimaraes told the officer he previously had sex with a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old boy at the beach in Delray Beach. Guimaraes described himself then as a 31-year-old who looked younger than his age, something Assistant U.S. State Attorney Lothrop Morris said he did to appeal to a minor.

Morris said he believed Zloch imposed a "fair sentence."

Defense attorney Eugene Garrett said Guimaraes' behavior from Aug. 30 to Sept. 9 was an "aberration" of his normal behavior. After he serves his time, the priest plans to return to Brazil, where he hopes to be allowed to resume his pastoral work with children, Garrett said.

After the sentencing, Didone said, he hopes the Catholic Church someday allows Guimaraes to again serve in a ministerial capacity. "There is no saint without a past and there is no sinner without a future," he said.

Guimaraes is a member of the Society of St. Paul order of priests and brothers in Brazil. He began his work in the Miami Archdiocese in 1999 and moved to the suburban Delray Beach church about a year later.

In a statement released after Guimaraes was arrested in September, diocesan spokesman Sam Barbaro said Guimaraes' authority to function as a priest in the Diocese of Palm Beach was immediately and permanently removed.

Guimaraes is now "answerable" to his religious community, which will handle the matter of his priesthood upon his return to Brazil, Barbaro said Monday.

"It's a sad situation. The matter is now closed," Barbaro said. "I hope he is able to change his ways."


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