Greek community outraged by priest’s beating

Author: Tanya Arja
Date Published: 11/13/2009
Publication: Fox 13 (Tampa FL)

TARPON SPRINGS – On the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs, the conversation usually revolves around this month’s harvest. Sponges are sorted and readied for sale.

But this week, the talk has centered on something else: the beating of Father Alexios Marakos, a priest visiting from Greece.

Nicholas Karagiannis said everywhere you go, people are talking about it.

”Sure everybody’s talking about it. Everybody’s talking about it. Everybody’s saddened by it,” he said.

Father Marakos said he was lost in downtown Tampa and was asking for directions. He drove into a condo parking garage and went to ask for help.

He was hit repeatedly by Jasen Bruce, a Marine reservist.

But Jasen Bruce said he was the one who was attacked first. Bruce has told police a bearded man in a robe came up to him, speaking a foreign language.

He said the man grabbed his genitals and then made a lewd comment.

Bruce said when he warned the man and told him to leave, the man kept coming at him. So Bruce said he grabbed a tire iron and hit him.

Police are working with the state attorneys’ office to decide if charges of a hate crime will be filed against Bruce. They said Bruce told officers, he was chasing a terrorist and had him pinned down.

Those in Tarpon Springs are outraged.

”It’s an attack on the community, as well as the individual that was attacked physically. People, myself in particular, are at a loss for how to explain it,” said resident Ted Billiris.

Nicholas Toth grew up in Tarpon Springs, and said they all have the same feeling here.

”He’s (Jasen Bruce) trying to play an angle of being sexually assaulted and hold this as a hammer over the Greek church not to pursue this, or he’ll continue to have these outrageous allegations,” Toth said.

Many here want police to release the 911 tapes and surveillance tapes that show the attack.

Athena Tsardoulias, who runs Tarpon Sponge, Inc, said that should clear some of this up.

”You know there had to be more to the story, than what we heard, there just had to be,” he said.

Police have not decided yet if the tapes will be released.