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October 28, 2009

Ex-Priest Arraigned On Sex Charges

by Don Lajoie, The Windsor Star

Bail hearing sought for Duarte

Former local priest John Duarte was arraigned in Windsor Tuesday on multiple charges of molesting teenage boys in Haiti at the mission he helped found.

Duarte, wearing an orange golf shirt, entered the courtroom quickly and leaned his elbows over the glass in the prisoner's dock to give instruction to defence lawyer John Liddle during his brief appearance. Liddle waived reading of the charges and asked that the matter be put over to Thursday to set a date for a bail hearing.

A publication ban was granted on argument and judgment for the hearing and on the identities of the alleged victims. Duarte will remain in custody pending the bail hearing.

Defence lawyer Andrew Bradie said outside court that Duarte contacted him overnight and that he has had "minimal contact" with his client since being retained. He declined further comment on the particulars of the case. Bradie added, however, that he was unaware of another case where someone "was brought back to face trial in Canada for offences outside this country," although he said he knew the Criminal Code had recently been amended to allow for prosecution for certain offences.

Shawna Coulter, media relations officer for the Essex detachment of the OPP, said the 44-year-old founder and former director of Hearts Together for Haiti was handed over to Canadian police by Dominican authorities Monday and left from Punta aboard an Air Canada flight. Upon arrival in Montreal, Duarte was arrested by Montreal police on a Canada-wide warrant.

Coulter said Duarte appeared briefly before a justice of the Quebec Court who authorized his continued detention and released him into the custody of the OPP.

She added the prisoner and his police escort arrived in Toronto Monday evening and later continued on to Windsor, arriving late at night. He was transported to the WIndsor Jail and held overnight.

Duarte is charged under the Criminal Code with nine counts of sexual exploitation of boys between 12 and 17. The offences were alleged to have taken place in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince and the tiny fishing village of Labadie, on the island's northern coast, between 1995 and 2006. A news release issued by the Dominican Immigration Office and National Drug Control Directorate said Duarte was arrested Oct. 20 by Dominican police at the request of a Canadian Embassy pertaining to a warrant issued in Canada in August.

The Dominican release said Duarte was arrested on information from Canadian investigators that he had been seeking sexual encounters with adolescent Haitian males in exchange for favours, such as buying them clothing or paying for better lodging for the victims' families, many of whom lived in the sprawling slums of the Haitian capital or in the impoverished villages where Duarte set up his mission.

Coulter said the investigation dates back to 1995 and that Duarte "was actively involved in youth organizations" in Windsor and Essex County during the same period. Police are asking anyone with information pertaining to the case to call the Essex OPP detachment's crime unit.

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