Priest Arrested in Assault

By Ken Ritter
Associated Press, carried in Buffalo News
February 2, 2007

Las Vegas - A Catholic priest accused of beating, groping and choking a soloist at his Las Vegas church was arrested Thursday in Arizona, Las Vegas police said.

The Rev. George Chaanine, 52, was taken into custody in Apache Junction, about 30 miles east of Phoenix, according to a statement.

Chaanine had been a fugitive since the assault last Friday in the Our Lady of Las Vegas parish office. A judge issued a felony warrant Tuesday charging him with attempted murder, sexual assault, kidnapping and battery with a deadly weapon.

According to a Las Vegas police report obtained Thursday by the Associated Press, the woman, who works in the parish office, told investigators she was sitting at her desk when Chaanine broke a full bottle of wine over her head, grabbed her hair and dragged her down a hall toward his office.

She fought back, lost consciousness and awoke with Chaanine groping her breasts and genitals, police said. She continued fighting until Chaanine straddled her and grabbed her throat, police said.

The woman told detectives she began to pray for her life before her attacker suddenly stopped. He muttered that he was going to kill himself, told the woman to wait 15 minutes, said he would call an ambulance and left the parish office, according to the police report.

Chaanine has been suspended with pay from his position as church administrative pastor. A Diocese of Las Vegas spokeswoman said Thursday that church authorities were cooperating with the investigation.

Chaanine, a native of Lebanon, was ordained in 1996 and began work at Our Lady of Las Vegas in 2004, the diocese said.


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