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Vegas Priest Pleads Guilty to Battery

  Criminal Law  -   POSTED: 2007/09/21 14:44

A Roman Catholic priest who smashed a wine bottle over the head of a woman in church pleaded guilty to felony battery with a deadly weapon. The Rev. George Chaanine admitted Thursday in Clark County District Court that he smashed the bottle over the 54-year-old woman's head at Our Lady of Las Vegas Catholic Church in January. Prosecutors dropped other charges, including attempted murder and sexual assault.

"Our prosecutors analyzed the case, they spoke with the victim, and she thought it was best to resolve this case short of trial," District Attorney David Roger said.

Neither the woman nor her lawyer could be reached for comment.

Chaanine, 53, remained in jail on $1 million bail pending sentencing Nov. 1. The battery charge carries a maximum prison term of six to 15 years, but Chaanine could be eligible for probation, officials said.

He remains suspended by the Diocese of Las Vegas. The district attorney said that as a convicted felon, Chaanine would "probably never be a priest again."

Deputy Public Defender Scott Coffee said Chaanine took responsibility for the attack, but "vehemently denies there was any sexual assault."

The woman sang at the church and was hired by Chaanine in October as the parish events coordinator. She accused Chaanine of hitting her in the head with a wine bottle on Jan. 26, stomping on her hand, groping her and choking her until she began praying. She said he suddenly stopped and fled.

Chaanine was arrested almost a week later near Phoenix. The woman was treated for a broken hand and a gash on the head, authorities said.

Both sides characterized Chaanine's relationship with his accuser as more than priest and parishioner, but they did not say the two were romantically involved.

Bishop Joseph Pepe, the head of the Las Vegas Diocese, issued the a statement Thursday characterizing the church community as saddened and saying he prayed for "unity and strength" in the congregation.


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