Former Crookston Priest Files Notice to Plead Guilty to Sex Crime
By Sarah Volpenhein
Grand Forks Herald
May 22, 2015
A catholic priest pleaded guilty Friday to sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl while serving in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Crookston.
The guilty plea comes nearly 10 years after Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, 60, assaulted the girl at his home in Greenbush, Minn.
Jeyapaul was extradited from his home country of India to the U.S. in November to face criminal charges brought in two different cases in Minnesota 9th District Court in Roseau, Minn., both alleging sexual abuse by Jeyapaul of underage female parishioners.
He had left the U.S. in September 2005 before criminal charges were filed against him and was first arrested in March 2012 in India.
Jeyapaul pleaded guilty Friday to fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, a felony, in one of the two cases. The other case, in which he is charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, is still pending.
The charge to which Jeyapaul pleaded guilty Friday was filed after the girl told investigators Jeyapaul had forced her to touch him and pulled her on top of him while kissing her on her 16th birthday in 2005.
The girl told investigators she had first met Jeyapaul on a bus ride to a conference when she was 15 years old, when he touched her thigh, court records say. She told investigators that a few weeks later, when she was still 15, Jeyapaul began calling her at her home and telling her he would marry her if he were younger.
The Herald typically does not identify victims of sexual assault.
The maximum penalty for fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct is 10 years imprisonment.
In the other case, Jeyapaul faces more serious charges, punishable by up to 30 years imprisonment per charge.
In that case, the victim, Megan Peterson, who has spoken publicly about the abuse, told police Jeyapaul had violently forced her to give him oral sex and fondled her in the rectory of Blessed Sacrament Church in Greenbush when she was 14, according to court documents.
Peterson later told police the sexual abuse was recurring from 2004 to 2005 and that Jeyapaul would sexually abuse her as often as twice a week during the school year, according to court records.
Jeyapaul has not pleaded guilty to the charges in that case.
Jeyapaul was an administrator of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Greenbush, as well as St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Middle River, Minn., and St. Edward's Catholic Church in Karlstad, Minn., from the fall 2004 to the fall 2005.
Jeyapaul will be sentenced in the one case at 10:30 a.m. June 15.