Priest Appears in Las Vegas Court on Attempted Murder, Sex Assault Charges

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

The Rev. George Chaanine stood shackled, wearing gray-blue jail scrubs, as he was represented by a Clark County public defender during his brief appearance in Las Vegas Justice Court.

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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.

The 52-year-old priest answered just one question, telling Justice of the Peace Douglas Smith he could not afford to hire a lawyer.

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.

Chaanine is accused of hitting a church soloist over the head with a wine bottle and attacking her Jan. 26 at the Our Lady of Las Vegas Catholic Church office.

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

"He's keeping his chin up in this most trying time of his life," he said.