Pereira attends preliminary hearing for sexual misconduct

Joseph Tingley, Editor-In-Chief

Former Associate Director of Admissions Luiz Heleno Pereira, 53, appeared in court on Feb. 13 for a preliminary hearing to address charges that he engaged in sexual contact with an 11-year-old boy. Magistrate Judge Samuel Pendolino, after hearing arguments from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Pereira’s counsel, found there was enough evidence to proceed to a formal arraignment.

Pereira will next appear in court on March 16, at which time he will be formally charged.

Meadville City Police Detective Sergeant Justin Bailey was the only witness called during the hearing. Bailey was called by Assistant District Attorney Paula DiGiacomo to answer questions about interviews conducted with the child, referred to only as CJ in order to protect his identity, and others who were present at the time of the alleged incident.

The incident, according to Bailey referring to notes from the interview with CJ, occurred some time in September 2017, when Pereira was staying with the family through Airbnb. At the time of the incident, CJ’s mother was not present, but her boyfriend was home with CJ’s younger sister.

Bailey said the boyfriend, CJ and CJ’s sister were all watching television when Pereira came to the door, and that Pereira sat down on the couch with them. Bailey said that, at some point, Pereira began tickling CJ, but said the timeline was somewhat unclear.

“It seemed as if this happened very quickly,” Bailey said.

The tickling progressed until, according to Bailey, CJ said Pereira began asking him to show him his genitals. Pereira, according to CJ, then tried to touch his genitals over top of his clothing.

“When [CJ] was asked specifically, he said that he touched him,” Bailey said.

It was at this point, Bailey said, the boyfriend physically stopped Pereira and asked him to step outside onto the front porch of the home. He then put both children to bed, and then joined Pereira on the porch.

Bailey said the boyfriend made no attempt to confront Pereira regarding the incident, but waited for CJ’s mother to return.

“He stated that [CJ’s mom] was supposed to come home and he did not know what to do,” Bailey said.

The next day, Bailey said the boyfriend received a call from Pereira at which time they discussed the alleged incident. According to the boyfriend, Pereira became tearful and denied that he would ever do such a thing.

“That was when [the boyfriend] told [Pereira] he was no longer permitted at the house,” Bailey said.

Meadville City Police were informed of the incident on Oct. 13 and Pereira was arrested on Jan. 24.

Pereira was represented by attorney Ed Hathaway.

Hathaway objected to the nature of the hearing, stating that all the evidence that had been provided was hearsay.

“I am frustrated with the format of all of this,” Hathaway said.

In her closing remarks, DiGiacomo said that while the nature of the touching was over articles of clothing, this did not diminish the seriousness of the crime.

“This is a touching of the intimate parts of the body, it does not matter that there was clothing in between,” DiGiacomo said.

After Pendolino ruled that there was enough evidence to proceed to a formal arraignment, Hathaway made a motion to amend the conditions of Pereira’s bail in order to allow him to obtain his passport, which he surrendered as a condition of bail.

Hathaway said that the nature of his work requires him to travel overseas in order to recruit international students. He said that while Pereira is not currently employed, he is confident that he could easily regain employment at another institution. Hathaway said Pereira is married and has children living in the U.S., and did not represent a flight risk.

“I think he has significant enough connections here that he will return,” Hathaway said.

DiGiacomo opposed the motion, saying she saw no need for Pereira to leave the country for the foreseeable future. Judge Pendolino denied the motion, and amended the terms of bail to include the condition that Pereira cannot have contact with a child under the age of 18 without the supervision of another adult.

“In this case I think that is appropriate,” Pendolino said.

Pereira is expected to be charged with unlawful contact with a minor, a third-degree felony; indecent assault with a minor under the age of 13, a first-degree misdemeanor; and harassment by subjecting another to physical contact, a summary offense.

If found guilty on all three counts, Pereira could face up to seven years in prison and over $25,000 in fines.