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Man who beat priest with cane pleads 'no contest'

East Palo Alto resident was under the influence of methamphetamine

An East Palo Alto man who brutally beat an 89-year-old priest with his own metal cane pleaded no contest to charges of felony physical elder abuse and felony assault in San Mateo Superior Court on Wednesday, Oct. 21, the San Mateo County District Attorney's office said.

Juan Antonio Perez, 41, originally faced four felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of elder abuse in the July 13 attack on Father John Coleman and three witnesses who came to the priest's aid.

Coleman was walking in the parking lot outside of St. Francis of Assisi Church at 1425 Bay Road when Perez, who was under the influence of methamphetamine, approached the priest at 9:53 p.m. and pushed him to the ground, according to the DA.

Perez took Coleman's metal cane and beat the priest with it until the cane broke. There was no reason for the attack, the DA's office said. A witness, Jose de la Torre, ran to the priest's aid and attempted to disarm Perez, but he was allegedly also beaten with what remained of the cane.

Two brothers who also saw the attack pursued Perez, who allegedly swung at them with the cane multiple times before being subdued. None of the victims was seriously hurt, but they sustained bruises and lacerations and were treated at the scene by paramedics.

Perez faces three years in state prison and will be sentenced on Dec. 8. He remains in custody on $175,000 bail.

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