PHOENIX – A Roman Catholic priest facing charges of beating and sexually assaulting a female employee at his Las Vegas parish told a judge Tuesday that he won't fight extradition from Arizona.
The Rev. George Chaanine, 52, was arrested last Thursday in Apache Junction, about 30 miles east of Phoenix.
Chaanine, who had been on the run since Jan. 26, when authorities say he attacked the female church worker, is being in lieu of $1 million bail. He faces charges of attempted murder, sexual assault, kidnapping and battery with a deadly weapon in the incident.
Chaanine's lawyer, Brian Russo, said Tuesday that his client will plead not guilty once he is returned to Nevada, where he was an administrator at Our Lady of Las Vegas parish.
"He looks forward to getting out there and litigating those charges," Russo said.
The priest, dressed in jail stripes, sat quietly in Maricopa County Superior Court and answered routine questions from Commissioner Lisa Ann Vandenberg with yes or no, until she asked him if he had used drugs or alcohol in the past 72 hours.
"Never!" Chaanine said.
The woman who said Chaanine attacked her told Las Vegas police that she was sitting at her desk when Chaanine broke a bottle of wine over her head and then choked and groped her. She told detectives she was praying for her life when the attack stopped.
Chaanine has been suspended with pay. He declined an interview request from The Associated Press following his arrest.
Nevada authorities have 30 days to arrange for his transfer to their custody, Vandenberg said.
Las Vegas lawyer David Chesnoff said he had been asked to represent Chaanine in Nevada, and that Russo appeared on his behalf in Phoenix. Chesnoff is a well-known defense lawyer who has been involved in some of southern Nevada's biggest trials in recent years.