Accused Priest Appears in Nevada Court

By Ken Ritter
Akron Farm Report
February 13, 2007

Las Vegas - A Roman Catholic priest accused of beating and sexually assaulting a female employee at a southern Nevada parish office made his initial court appearance in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

Chaanine was not asked to enter a plea on charges including attempted murder, sexual assault, kidnapping and battery that could result in a sentence of life in prison if he is convicted.

He did not immediately seek bail. His court-appointed lawyer, Jeff Banks, said he would do that in writing later. The judge set a preliminary hearing for Feb. 27.

Banks said the priest, arrested Feb. 1 near Phoenix, was "ready to face these charges."

Chaanine remained suspended with pay from his role as administrator at the parish, in a neighborhood northwest of the Las Vegas Strip. He has declined requests for interviews at the Clark County jail.

Banks suggested he would challenge the validity of the claims by Chaanine's accuser, a 54-year-old parish office worker.

The woman told police she was beaten, groped and choked nearly into unconsciousness before she started praying and Chaanine stopped. She said he muttered that he was going to kill himself, told her to wait in the church office for 15 minutes and left, according to a police report.

He accused the diocese of ignoring her, except to recently return her belongings and inform her by letter she was no longer permitted to sing at the church.


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