Greek priest back to work after violent attack
TAMPA, FL — A Greek Orthodox priest was back performing his duties at the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral less than two days after enduring a violent attack.
Marine reservist Jasen Bruce is out on bond facing charges that he attacked Father Alexios Marakis. Lance Corporal Jasen Bruce allegedly accused the priest of being a terrorist and a sexual deviant.
ABC Action News has learned this is not the first time Bruce has said he was a victim. According to police, in 2007 Bruce plead no contest to battery charges against a tow truck driver.
That driver told police he ”feared for his safety” after Bruce tried to assault him for towing his vehicle. Initially, Bruce claimed he was attacked by the driver.
Tampa Police say Alexios Marakis, a 29-year-old priest visiting from Crete, Greece, was taken to Tampa General Hospital after the alleged attack by Bruce. Marakis is being hosted by Father Michael Eaccarino at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs.
Eaccarino said he rushed to the emergency room Monday to tend to Father Marakis, who was badly hurt. ”He needed three stitches above his eye. Then he needed more on the back of his head. He had several bumps. His left arm was completely raw and so was his leg. You see when he was trying to run, he was tripping on these robes that we wear,” Eaccarino said.
According to police, Marakis had performed a blessing on another Greek priest and was in his car when he accidentally exited I-275 and wound up lost in downtown Tampa.
He followed a line of cars and entered the secured parking garage at the Seaport Channelside Apartments. Marakis, who can barely speak English, asked Bruce for help.
That’s when police say Bruce took out a tire iron and hit Marakis over the head and chased him for three blocks. During the chase, Bruce called 911 and claimed that he was pursuing a Taliban terrorist.
Bruce has retained the services of prominent attorney Jeff Brown. At a news conference, Brown said he and his client will fight the charges. Bruce also claimed Marakis made sexual advances towards him.
”We want to know how this man dressed in a robe and sandals got in a secured parking garage, approached the Lance Corporal, and then reached for his genitals. We believe the surveillance tape will clear the Lance Corporal of the allegations against him,” Brown said.
Police say surveillance video of the scene will be released after an investigation. But, they say it depicts a slight man (Marakis), being chased by a 6’3” man (Bruce).
Eaccarino said Father Marakis does not want to press charges because of his religious beliefs. But, he is adamant that Bruce’s allegations are false.
Father Marakis has been in the monastery for 11 years. He has been a priest for 9.
Father Eaccarino says he can understand the fear, ”This man truly may have been frightened. Because of the way we dress, people judge us. It may not be right, but it happens.”
Bruce has a criminal history. He was charged with battery in 2007. In that case, he was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Detectives are working to determine if this latest incident meets the criteria for a hate crime.