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Fugitive priest is arrested

February 02, 2007|From the Associated Press

PHOENIX — A Roman Catholic priest accused of beating, groping and choking a woman at his Las Vegas church was arrested Thursday in Arizona, authorities said.

Father George Chaanine, 52, was taken into custody in Apache Junction, east of Phoenix, said Deb McCarley, a spokeswoman for the Phoenix office of the FBI.

Chaanine has been a fugitive since the alleged assault Jan. 26 at the Our Lady of Las Vegas parish office. A judge issued a felony warrant charging him with attempted murder, sexual assault, kidnapping and battery with a deadly weapon.

Las Vegas police notified Arizona authorities that Chaanine might be in the Phoenix area after receiving a telephone tip Thursday, Lt. John Bradshaw said.

"Sometimes we get lucky, and there's nothing wrong with that," Bradshaw said.

McCarley said Chaanine was arrested without incident on a federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

She said the federal government probably would drop the unlawful-flight charge so Chaanine could be extradited to Las Vegas to face the more serious charges there.

According to a Las Vegas police report, the victim in the assault was treated at University Medical Center in Las Vegas for bruises on her throat, head and knees; a broken hand; and a gash on her head.

The woman, a former Las Vegas stage performer, sang as a church soloist and worked at the parish office where Chaanine was an administrator.

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