Former priest who ran agency for disabled accused of taking explicit pics of unconscious men

New Orleans Advocate [New Orleans LA]

December 16, 2021

By Michelle Hunter

Stephen Sauer, a former Jesuit priest who served as executive director of the Arc of Greater New Orleans, is accused of taking hundreds of sexually explicit photos of unconscious men without their consent, according to authorities.

The photos, which were found on Sauer’s computer hard drive, include “adult males asleep, unconscious or under the influence of an unknown substance in various stages of undress,” with their genitals exposed and being fondled. In some of the photos, there was evidence of ejaculation on the men’s faces, Jefferson Parish Assistant District Attorney Kellie Rish said in a bond hearing Thursday in Jefferson Parish Magistrate Court.

“Five victims were identified and denied willful participation with any act,” Rish said. “Nor did they consent to be photographed with any devices.” 

Sauer, 59, of Metairie, was arrested Monday by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and booked with five counts of video voyeurism and one count of sexual battery. All of the victims were adults, but authorities did not say how Sauer knew the men. 

Sauer ran the Arc of New Orleans, a non-profit that provides services to mentally disabled people, since January 2017. He was removed from the agency after his arrest Monday.

Records also show Sauer served at a variety of Jesuit institutions locally and in other states, including at Loyola University and as pastor of Immaculate Conception Jesuit Church in New Orleans. It’s not clear when he was ordained, but a spokesperson for the Society of Jesus said Sauer left the order “at his own request” last year.

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office opened the investigation after detectives were contacted in July by the New York District Attorney’s Office. 

Sauer had allegedly sent an external hard drive to a New York-based company, though it’s not clear why. The business found “a couple hundred images of adult men subjected to sexual assaults” and turned it over to authorities there, Rish told the court. 

The device was given to JPSO, which conducted a forensic analysis of the hard drive. Investigators found more images, including photos of the male victims’ driver’s licenses and other types of photo identification, Rish said. 

Stephen Sauer

The images appeared to be taken inside a red 2016 Nissan Rogue and a home with a distinct interior, according to Rish. Sheriff’s Office detectives served search warrants for Sauer’s house and vehicle, a Nissan Rouge, and found them consistent with the backgrounds in the photos, Rish said. 

Detectives also found prescription sleep medication, liquid diphenhydramine (an allergy medication known by the brand name Benadryl), syringes, metal spoons and condoms, according to Rish. Authorities did not say whether Sauer is suspected of using the sleep medication in any way related to the allegations. 

Criminal Commissioner Patricia Joyce set Sauer’s bond at $75,000 bond and ordered him to submit to home incarceration should he be released. Joyce also issued orders of protection barring him from contacting the five victims. 

The case is still under investigation, and detectives believe there may be other victims, Rish said. 

In addition to serving as pastor at Immaculate Conception from 2008 to 2012, Sauer was also elected to the Loyola University Board of Trustees in 2010. He served two terms at the Jesuit university from 2010 to 2016, said Patricia Murret, Loyola’s Associate Director of Public Affairs.

Afterwards, Sauer taught some classes, primarily online, to graduate students in the fall of 2017 and the spring of 2019.

“We know of no complaint against him tied to his associations at Loyola,” Murret said in a statement Thursday.

Sauer grew up in Metairie and attended Georgetown University for undergraduate liturgical studies, according to a biography from his time as a Loyola board member. 

His Linkedin profile notes that he served as the vice president of student affairs at Spring Hill College in Mobile and was a theological studies faculty member at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

Sauer was being held Thursday at the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center in Gretna.