Retired Orthodox priest, 71, accused of sexual battery, says Tarpon Springs police

Author: Kathryn Varn
Date Published: 06/03/2019
Publication: Tampa Bay Times
Koumianos Hatzileris, 71, faces two charges of sexual battery, according to Tarpon Springs police. He had recently retired as a priest at the Dormition of the Theotokos parish in Clearwater. The church he is now suspended, and will not be able to lead services or ceremonies as a retired priest. [Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office]
Koumianos Hatzileris, 71, faces two charges of sexual battery, according to Tarpon Springs police. He had recently retired as a priest at the Dormition of the Theotokos parish in Clearwater. The church he is now suspended, and will not be able to lead services or ceremonies as a retired priest. [Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office]

Koumianos Hatzileris faces two counts of sexual battery in connection with an incident May 27 at his Tarpon Springs home, police said.

A 71-year-old retired priest accused this week of sexual battery had been arrested 20 years ago in a prostitution sting, according to police.

In July 1999, Clearwater police arrested Koumianos Hatzileris on a charge of soliciting a prostitute on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard. He was 52 then, wearing his black priest robes and collar, when he approached a woman who turned out to be an undercover detective and offered to pay her $20 for sex, according to a police report.

Hatzileris founded the Dormition of Theotokos at 1910 Douglas Ave. in Clearwater, a parish affiliated with the Church of Genuine Orthodox Christians of America. The church formed in the 1950s after a contentious break from the Eastern Orthodox Church by a group unhappy with the main church’s direction. The parish is not affiliated with St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Tarpon Springs, a member parish of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

After his 1999 arrest, the church suspended Hatzileris for three or four years, said Bishop Christodoulos Michaels of Theoupolis. Hatzileris eventually returned to the Clearwater parish and worked as a priest until he retired two weeks ago due to age.

Church officials took the same action Monday, after Tarpon Springs police announced they had arrested Hatzileris on two sexual battery charges.

According to police, a woman reported on May 27 that Hatzileris assaulted her that day at his home in the 100 block of N Pinellas Avenue. The woman who filed the complaint against Hatzileris is not a parishioner, police said.

Hatzileris will no longer be allowed to lead any services or ceremonies, as retired priests sometimes do, Michaels said.

“He’s not going to function in any of our churches until this is cleared up,” said the bishop, who is located in New York.

Following his 1999 arrest, Hatzileris denied the allegations to police, saying he approached the detective because he wanted to turn her into police, according to the report. The case didn’t go to trial, according to court records. Instead, he took part in a pre-trial diversion program.

During his suspension from the church, Hatzileris cycled between spending time with his family and spending time at a monastery in New York. When his suspension was up, he helped open a church in Detroit, then spent time at a parish near Chicago, Michaels said. He returned to Clearwater three or four years ago.

He didn’t have any more issues over the last 20 years, Michaels said — until this week.

“He’s a popular man. He’s a charming man,” the bishop said. “He just has his weaknesses, I suppose.”

Tarpon Springs police ask that anyone with information about Hatzileris should contact Detective Lara Scarpati at (727) 938-2849.

Contact Kathryn Varn at (727) 893-8913 or kvarn@tampabay.com. Follow @kathrynvarn.