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  2 Priests Can't Be Charged

By Lisa Arthur
Miami Herald
January 22, 2004

Broward County prosecutors have decided not to file criminal charges against two Archdiocese of Miami priests accused of molesting a former altar boy in the late 1980s. But the report closing the investigation raises concerns about the priests and the church's handling of the case.

Under Florida law, the time for prosecuting the Revs. Ricardo Castellanos and Arnulfo Arandia expired in 1993, said Dennis Siegel, head of the Broward state attorney's office sex crimes and child abuse division.

But Siegel added that detectives were not able to fully investigate the allegations because the lawyer representing former altar boy Kenneth Matias in a civil suit against the archdiocese did not cooperate.

The attorney, Joel Magolnick, said he wasn't aware the state attorney's office was investigating and did not recall being contacted about Matias by investigators.

MULTIPLE ALLEGATIONS

Siegel's report closing out the investigation raised concerns about the priests and the archdiocese.

"The histories of both Father Castellanos and Father Arandia around children are worrisome," Siegel wrote in the Jan. 15 report released on Wednesday. "Each of them have been the subject of multiple allegations of child sexual abuse by different and ostensibly unconnected persons."

Castellanos has been accused by four former altar boys, including two in Miami-Dade County.

In his civil suit, Matias said Castellanos and Arandia fondled his genitals in 1988 and 1989, when the 15-year-old was living in a trailer behind San Isidro Church in Pompano Beach because his family was having difficulties.

The report goes on to say it is of "extreme concern" that the archdiocese's files on the priests do not reflect that anyone connected with the church ever reported any abuse allegations against the priests by anyone to police or state child welfare agencies.

"The failure . . . to contact the [former] Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services . . . was probably a criminal offense which cannot now be prosecuted" because time has run out to prosecute the case, the report said.

Mary Ross Agosta, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said the church did not report the allegations because Matias was an adult when he reported them.

"The law of the state of Florida didn't require that we report allegations if an adult is reporting them," she said, adding that policies of the archdiocese have changed since the sex abuse scandal throughout the Catholic Church became widely known.

"Since that, we report everything that comes to us to the state attorney regardless of the age of the person making the allegations," she said.

PRIEST ON LEAVE

Castellanos, who has repeatedly denied abusing any children, remains on administrative leave. Agosta said a church review board will examine all allegations against him.

"It hasn't been determined when the review team will render its findings to the archbishop," she said.

Arandia was a visiting priest at the archdiocese and left in the early 1990s. Agosta said no one at the archdiocese knows where he is now.

Herald staff writer Donna Gerhke-White contributed to this report.

 
 

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