A Macon pastor wanted on rape and aggravated child molestation charges was in Central America establishing churches while local lawmen sought to arrest him, his lawyer said Thursday.
Shane Geeter, a lawyer representing 39-year-old Yohandry Bravo, contends Bravo’s father-in-law died and he went to the Central American nation to officiate the funeral before arrest warrants were issued in the case.
“He would not have known that there was a criminal charge against him,” Geeter said during a Bibb County Superior Court bond hearing.
Bravo is accused of raping a 16-year-old girl at his house, across from Smiley’s Flea Market in January 2013. At the time, he’d been a pastor for 17 years, according to his Facebook Page.
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He was leading a congregation of between 200 and 250 people at Ministerio Internacional Jesús es el Señor on Hawkinsville Road.
Bravo’s 15-year-old son, Jose, was killed Nov. 23, 2012, after he stepped onto Hawkinsville Road to retrieve a hat that had blown out of the car he was riding in.
A couple families moved in with Bravo and his family after the teenager’s death.
The rape allegation surfaced Feb. 23, 2013, and the arrest warrants were signed March 7.
During Thursday’s hearing, Geeter expressed doubt in the credibility of the victim’s statements because the incidents were reported to have occurred in the presence of Bravo’s children.
He said his client, a Cuban native, moved to the United States many years ago after the U.S. Coast Guard picked him off a boat in the Caribbean Sea and took him to Guantanimo Bay Naval Base. While there, he requested asylum and later was granted U.S. citizenship, Geeter said.
He and his wife moved to the Middle Georgia area in 1996 and have other family in the area, Geeter said.
Bravo isn’t a flight risk, Geeter argued.
He said Bravo was asked to establish churches in Nicaragua and El Salvador during his 2013 trip.
He learned of the charges against him while he was abroad, Geeter said.
Bravo voluntarily returned to the United States to face the charges, he said.
The pastor was arrested May 4 during a traffic stop in Atlanta. He has been held at the Bibb County jail since May 5.
Bibb County deputies are holding Bravo’s passport and other items he had on his person when he was arrested. If released on bond, he’s willing to surrender his passport, Geeter said.
Citing concerns that Bravo may be a flight risk, the judge denied bond.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.