Priest Charged with Sex Crime Released from Jail after Anonymous Person Posts Bail
By Arielle Zionts
Rapid City Journal
December 20, 2018
The former Rapid City priest accused of sexually touching a 13-year-old girl was released from jail Thursday afternoon after someone paid for his recently reduced $10,000 cash-only bond.
John Praveen, 38, was released at 1:49 p.m. from the Pennington County Jail, said Helene Duhamel, spokeswoman for the Pennington County Sheriff's Office.
"A woman who has asked to remain anonymous has paid his bond," said Brad Blauvelt, who volunteered to house Praveen at his Nemo Road home.
Blauvelt said he's unsure if the woman paid the entire bond herself, or gathered donations from members of the Catholic community.
The Diocese of Rapid City did not donate or facilitate donations for the bond, said Bishop Robert Gruss.
Blauvelt said while some of his neighbors along his rural stretch of road are fine with him housing Praveen, others are "over-the-top angry."
"I think at this point I'm committed (to housing Praveen), but I have to do something to calm the neighbors down," Blauvelt said.
He said he may ask to take a leave of absence from his job as a network administrator for Rapid City Area Schools so he can stay home and supervise Praveen at all times.
Praveen was charged Oct. 2 and accused of sexually touching a 13-year-old girl above the clothes during two separate incidents. Before his duties were suspended, he had worked at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help cathedral in Rapid City since June. Before that, he served at churches in Eagle Butte. Praveen joined the diocese for a 10-year assignment in December 2017 after serving in India, where he was born.
As part of his conditions of release, Praveen must wear an ankle monitor, not contact his alleged victim and her family, and stay at the Blauvelt's home. He must obtain permission from the court to leave the house unless he is going to the doctor or his lawyer's office. Praveen previously turned his passport over to the Pennington County State's Attorney Office.
Judge Robert Mandel agreed to lower Praveen's original $100,000 cash-only bond to $10,000 during a motions hearing Wednesday at the state courthouse.
John Murphy, Praveen's defense lawyer, had been trying to lower his client's bond since a hearing on Nov. 6, saying the original bond was higher than than that of non-priests accused of similar crimes. He's also said it would be easier to assist his client outside of jail due to language barriers and the need to sift through large amounts of evidence. Praveen, a native Telugu speaker, has trouble communicating in English, and phones can't be brought into jail to use a translation app, Murphy has said.
Praveen is set to return to court for a status hearing at 9 a.m. on Jan. 22.