Ex-greenbush Priest Appears in Indian Court
By Stephen J. Lee
Grand Forks Herald
March 19, 2012
|Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul |
A former Greenbush, Minn., Catholic priest appeared in court Monday in New Delhi related to charges filed years ago in Roseau, Minn., alleging he sexually assaulted two teen girls in 2004 and 2005, according to The Associated Press.
But the extradition process to return the Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul from his native India to Roseau to face the charges in state district court could take three months, Indian government officials told the AP.
Jeyapaul, 57, was arrested Friday near the southern Indian town of Erode based on a warrant from Interpol, according to Indian news reports. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Karen Foss, who became Roseau County attorney in January 2011, said Monday she hadn’t yet received official confirmation from the U.S. Department of Justice that Jeyapaul’s arrest in India is related to the Minnesota charges. “I heard about it on the news last night.”
Each of the two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct Jeyapaul faces in Roseau carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $40,000 fine, along with a mandatory minimum sentence of 12 years, Foss said.
Jeyapaul first was charged in 2006 in district court in Roseau with one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving Megan Peterson, who was 14 and 15 when she says the priest violently assaulted her several times in the church in Greenbush where she had gone to pray.
The complaint was amended later to include a similar count against him involving a girl who was 16 at the time of similar alleged assaults.
Peterson, who won a $750,000 settlement last year after suing the Crookston diocese for negligence in hiring Jeyapaul, said Sunday she is waiting for the chance to testify against him.
Foss said from statements made earlier by the other woman, who would be about 24 now, she also will willingly testify if the case goes to trial.
Jeyapaul came as a visiting priest to the Crookston diocese in September 2004. Allegations against him came to light in 2005, but he had already returned to India, telling diocesan officials he had to visit his sick mother.
Church officials in Rome recommended Jeyapaul be removed from the priesthood, but his bishop in India instead sentenced him, after a church trial, to spend a year in a monastery, the AP reported.
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