March 10, 2010

No Charges in Priest's Beating

09 Mar 2010

TAMPA - The Hillsborough County State Attorney's office has decided not to file charges against a Marine reservist accused of attacking an Greek Orthodox priest.

The incident happened in November in the parking garage of the Seaport Channelside Apartments on Twiggs Street.

Police said Jasen Bruce, 28, beat Father Alexios Marakis with a tire iron, then chased him on foot for three blocks.

The State Attorney's Office put out the following statement:

"After considering the law, the evidence and the information, and arguments provided by defense counsel, it is evident that we cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Bruce committed a crime and acted without legal justification."

Bruce and his attorney spoke to the media Tuesday afternoon, saying Bruce was acting in self-defense after the priest grabbed his genitals.

"As you know, the state attorney's office said there was no legal justification to charge Jasen in the case, and what they're saying obviously is that Jasen acted in self defense," attorney Jeff Brown said.

"I defended myself that night from being sexually grabbed and attacked," Bruce said. "Many people refused to believe me simply because the attacker was a priest."

Brown played a surveillance tape of the priest's car following another car into the garage, saying it proved the priest was not lost.

Brown also said the entrance of that garage is a "known gay trolling area." He played an excerpt from a 911 call he said was Bruce telling the dispatcher a man had just grabbed his testicles. He says to the dispatcher, "If I follow him, it's gonna get bad. Get someone over here."

But Marakis' attorney said his investigation showed the attack was unprovoked.

"I firmly believe, and I'll stand by it based on my investigation and my information i've obtained, this is roid rage at its worst," said Jerry Theophilopoulos. "To have somebody beat another person with a tire iron, it is a travesty of justice to have him on the streets with you or I."

Bruce and his attorney say they are now looking at a potential civil lawsuit.

See more here and here.