Ex-aurora Priest Charged with Sex Abuse Avoids Deportation

By Hannah Leone
Chicago Tribune
July 22, 2017

A former Aurora priest charged with sexually abusing two young girls at their Catholic church appears to have eluded deportation to his native Colombia for now.

Alfredo Pedraza Arias entered a courtroom late Friday morning in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody and left in the custody of the Kane County judicial center in St. Charles.

A June 14 deportation order signed by a federal immigration judge cast uncertainty on whether Arias, 50, would be in the U.S. when his felony trial on the sexual abuse charges was scheduled to begin July 31. The case has been continued, however, with no new trial date set.

On Friday, Kane County Judge Linda Abrahamson remanded Arias to the county judicial center's custody based on a bond increase ordered earlier this month. That change stipulates that he must post 10 percent toward an additional $100,000 in bail in order to be re-released.

Abrahamson increased Arias' bail on July 14 after prosecutors asked the judge to revoke or increase it in order to keep Arias in the country to stand trial. He'd been free on the original $50,000 bail when federal immigration officials took him into custody May 4.

Arias' attorney, David Camic, described agents apprehending his client outside the Kane County courtroom where he'd just had a hearing, saying Arias wouldn't be leaving the courthouse except in immigration service custody. Since then, Camic said immigration officials have brought Arias back for two other hearings, but Friday was the first time they left him with the jail.

Records showed immigration officials were holding Arias at a facility in Kenosha, Wis.

Immigration officials have not responded to an inquiry about the case. Camic said he believed Arias' visa had expired, but wasn't sure if that or the criminal charges were why immigration officials wanted him deported.

If Arias were deported, prosecutors could ask to have him tried in absentia, but it's unclear if that would work or if he could be extradited for proceedings, said Kane County Assistant State's Attorney Reagan Pittman.

Arias has pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving two girls, who were both younger than 6 at the time of the alleged abuse at Sacred Heart Church in Aurora between 2012 and 2014, according to Kane County prosecutors.

Charged in February 2016, Arias had been out of the ministry since October 2014 while police and the Rockford Diocese investigated allegations against him. Arias also worked in Aurora at Our Lady of Good Counsel and with DeKalb's Hispanic Ministry, according to the diocese.

Prosecutors are seeking to introduce a previously uncharged incident involving Arias and a 3-year-old girl during his time in DeKalb, a recently filed motion states.

The girl claimed Arias fondled her while her mother attended church, an encounter prosecutors believe is "substantially similar" to the charges against him in Kane County.

Before the hearing Friday, Camic said Arias probably wouldn't be there. Afterward, he said he was surprised to see his client.

Though Camic said he wants Arias to stay in the country because they want to prove he's not guilty, he said he thought the bail increase wasn't fair. But he left the remand order up to the court.

"I thought it was an unenforceable order," Camic said, adding that even in the jail, "the government could take him at any time."

Pittman said she didn't know whether federal agents could simply take Arias from the jail.

Freelance reporter Dan Campana contributed.









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