Priest Fails to Appear for Sentencing

Priest Fails to Appear for Sentencing

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OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- A Catholic priest failed to appear for sentencing for enticing a minor over the Internet and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.

Defense attorney Bernie Allen maintained that the Rev. Mario Arbelaez Olarte, former assistant pastor at St. Joseph's Catholic Church, had surrendered his passport and returned to his native Colombia under the terms of his plea bargain.

However, prosecutors argued Tuesday that Arbelaez Olarte was to have faced a possible one-year jail sentence before being deported.

Allen said that his understanding had been that if Arbelaez Olarte had not been processed out of the country by immigration officials by Tuesday, he was to return to court and sit in jail until immigration had completed deportation proceedings.

Second District Judge Scott Hadley said, "The idea, based on my memory and the case file, was that he should be here today," and he issued the bench warrant.

Parishioners who attended Tuesday's hearing and have been steadfast supporters of Arbelaez Olarte said he left Friday.

Arbelaez Olarte pleaded no contest Sept. 9 to a class A misdemeanor charge of enticing a minor over the Internet.

Arbelaez Olarte was arrested May 14 by police at a rendezvous that he had arranged with whom he thought was a 15-year-old boy while in a gay chat room. The supposed boy was a law enforcement officer. The rendezvous was a block from the church.

He was suspended two days later by the Catholic Diocese for Utah.

Arbelaez Olarte claimed he had only been doing Web research and he denied seeking sex.

Authorities said the chat room transcripts showed him talking about performing specific sexual acts with the supposed teenage boy.

Allen said his client maintained he was not going to get any information if he said, "Hi, I'm Father Mario."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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