A convicted child molester who fled to Guatemala after being arrested in Arlington County on charges of molesting a 17-year-old boy was denied bond yesterday during a brief hearing in Arlington Circuit Court.

Thomas R. Koucky, 41, had been released June 17 after posting bond of $3,000 set by Magistrate Darnell B. Lee. Koucky appeared for two subsequent court hearings, his attorney said, but when Arlington prosecutors continued trying to have his bond revoked, Koucky fled the country rather than appear for a June 29 hearing.

Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Theo Stamos told Arlington Circuit Court Judge James F. Almand that a bond of $3,000 was "preposterously low" for the charge of carnal knowledge of a child.

Stamos noted that the charge is one of several under Virginia law that presumes defendants will be held without bond unless they can prove they are neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community.

Arlington Commonwealth's Attorney Richard E. Trodden said later that one of his prosecutors even called Lee on June 17 after learning of the bond and "reviewed the statute" with the magistrate. But he said Lee was not convinced. Lee did not return a call seeking comment yesterday.

The issue became moot when Koucky missed a hearing and fled the country. Alene C. Grabauskas, Koucky's attorney, did not challenge the prosecution's motion to revoke Koucky's bond yesterday. Almand then revoked the bond and returned the case to juvenile court, where the next hearing is scheduled for July 20.

Koucky is charged with molesting a teenager, now 17, over several years. Koucky was convicted in Florida in 1990 of soliciting a 13-year-old boy for prostitution and convicted again in 1994 of soliciting a 16-year-old in Frederick.

Arlington police began investigating Koucky in May and obtained a warrant for him last month. Grabauskas said Koucky turned himself in to police June 17. Detective Jim Stone accompanied Koucky to the magistrate's office, where Lee was informed of Koucky's previous convictions, according to Grabauskas and police spokesman Matthew Martin.

Martin said that after Lee set Koucky's bond, Stone pointed out that Virginia law requires someone charged with carnal knowledge of a juvenile, and with a similar prior conviction, to be denied bond unless the suspect can make a convincing case to be released. Martin said the magistrate disagreed.

Koucky appeared for his arraignment the next day in Arlington juvenile court, where Judge Esther L. Wiggins apparently recognized that $3,000 was a low bond for a suspect charged with child molestation and with two prior convictions. Wiggins ordered a bond hearing for three days later, on June 21.

The hearing was held in juvenile court by Judge George D. Varoutsos, and Koucky was present. Grabauskas said she argued that Virginia law states that once bond has been set by a magistrate, prosecutors may not seek to increase or revoke it unless they can show that the magistrate had incomplete or incorrect information or that the defendant's status had changed.

M. Nicole Wittmann, the prosecutor handling the case, told Varoutsos of an Arlington probation report in which Koucky admitted being attracted to teenage boys and acknowledged "abusing around 300 boys," Trodden said. But the report was not submitted to Varoutsos, and Grabauskas said she does not remember hearing the number of victims referenced in court.

"Judge Varoutsos acted completely appropriately," Grabauskas said. "He followed the statute in reviewing all the criteria [for revoking bond]. The commonwealth offered no additional evidence which would warrant changing, modifying or revoking the bond."

Trodden said the report with Koucky's admissions was not submitted to the judge because bond hearings at the district court level are more informal, and "a lot of representations made at bond hearings are made orally." The prosecutor acknowledged that "there's no doubt when a defendant makes bond, there is a higher burden on the commonwealth, and another hoop we have to jump through."

David Bernhard, a veteran Arlington defense lawyer, said the statute for reconsidering bond "didn't envision this kind of situation, where the magistrate didn't follow the guidelines." Bernhard, who said Varoutsos followed the law, agreed with Trodden that such hearings are typically informal. "In Arlington, they [judges] usually take the commonwealth's representations as facts," he added.

Prosecutors appealed Varoutsos's ruling to Circuit Court. Koucky did not appear for a hearing June 28 before Almand, but Grabauskas argued that she had learned of the hearing only the night before and that Koucky may not have been notified. Almand reset the hearing for the next day at noon. Again, Koucky failed to appear.

Authorities now know that Koucky had boarded a plane in Atlanta and flown to Guatemala City five days earlier, on June 24, Stamos said. Police said he also had made arrangements to sell all his possessions. Koucky was quickly located in Guatemala, where he surrendered. He was returned to Arlington on Friday.

Thomas R. Koucky sits in court as his attorney, Alene C. Grabauskas, addresses Judge James F. Almand. Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Theo Stamos is at center.Koucky is charged with molesting a teenager over several years.Thomas R. Koucky was released June 17 on bond of $3,000, which Arlington prosecutors contended was too low and tried to change. He did not appear at a June 29 hearing, and police learned that he had fled to Guatemala.