Ruling Favors Priest
By Brock Buesing
The Faribault County Register
October 27, 2013
A former Blue Earth priest facing criminal sexual conduct charges caught a break in Faribault County District Court last week.
Judge Douglas Richards ruled in favor of a motion that favored Father Leo Charles Koppala in a motion hearing on Friday, Oct. 18.
Koppala, 47, was serving as a priest for Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Blue Earth and has been charged with second-degree criminal sexual conduct from an alleged event on June 7.
It is alleged that Koppala sexually touched a child while visiting a home where the child was staying.
The motion that was granted states that the State needs to provide a report from a witness who is a part-time deputy.
According to court documents, the State's response to the defendant's motion was that the witness did not write a report because he was not acting like a law enforcement officer to the extent he had any involvement with the case.
Attorney Philip Elbert reminded the judge of a rule from the Minnesota rules of criminal procedures. Elbert explained that any others who participated in the investigation, and who regularly report to the prosecutor, must disclose any information.
"All officers, part-time or not, report to the prosecutor," Elbert says. "The law is clear."
Elbert said that the child told an adult who was a part-time deputy, the same evening as the alleged assault, about what happened. That same adult called a deputy, who contacted chief deputy Scott Adams the next morning. The case was then turned over to Blue Earth Police, who had jurisdiction.
According to prosecutor Troy Timmerman, the child called the part-time deputy because they had a personal relationship. Timmerman also stated that the deputy was off duty when he received the phone call and responded as a private citizen, not an officer of the law.
Elbert said knowing the exact individuals who spoke and when they spoke could have a big impact on this case.
"Once we find out some more detailed specifics that seemed to be missing earlier, we can move forward in this case," Elbert says.
He also added that the touching described in one report was legal and what was described in another was illegal.
Bishop John Quinn of the Diocese of Winona issued a written statement saying he had placed Koppala on administrative leave "in accordance with the diocesan policy for the protection of minors."
Koppala is not allowed to exercise his ministry or live at any parish property in the Winona diocese while the investigation continues, Quinn wrote.
A contested Omnibus hearing was granted by Richards, which will be held on Dec. 16 at 10 a.m.