Priest Faces Charges

By Paula Gibbins
Fairbault County Register
June 16, 2013

The priest at St. Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Blue Earth is facing criminal charges.

Father Leo Charles Koppala was charged with 2nd-degree criminal sexual conduct in Faribault County District Court on Monday, June 10.

The alleged victim was an 11-year-old girl.

The incident allegedly occurred on Friday, June 7.

Koppala was arrested by Blue Earth Police Chief Tom Fletcher on Saturday, June 8 in the early evening.

According to the complaint, Koppala had been invited to the victim's grandmother's home for dinner on the evening of Friday, June 7.

At some point during the evening, the grandmother received a phone call. The alleged victim was in the basement watching TV when Koppala came downstairs as well.

The complaint states that the defendant kissed the victim on the cheeks and lips. It also states, "(The victim) said that Koppala put one hand on her lower back and the other hand on her chest."

Also while downstairs with the victim, the complaint states the defendant, "told (the victim) that when she was done with school, he wanted to come to her house so they could be free together. Koppala told (the victim) that he loved her."

Blue Earth Police Chief Tom Fletcher interviewed the grandmother and Koppala.

"Koppala admitted that he had supper with (the victim) and her grandmother," states the complaint. "He agreed that he had kissed her on the cheeks and mouth. He admitted to placing his hand on her chest, but did not believe he touched her breasts.

"Koppala admitted that he told (the victim) that they could be free together but explained that he meant something different," according to the complaint.

A bail bond was set at $75,000. If he is released on bail, Koppala must surrender his passport, have no contact with the victim or her family and have no contact with any other minor.

The 47-year-old priest, a native of South India, has presided over the congregation at St. Peter & Paul Church in Blue Earth and St. Mary's in Winnebago since January 2010.

Previous to his move to Blue Earth, Koppala was the parochial vicar at Church of Resurrection in Rochester.

He was ordained at the Diocese of Nellore, A.P. South India, on April 29, 1994.

Koppala's next court appearance is scheduled for Monday, June 17 at 1:30 a.m. for his Rule 8 appearance.

Bishop John Quinn placed Koppala on administrative leave. While on leave, he is not permitted to exercise his public ministry or live on any parish property in the Diocese of Winona pending the outcome of the investigation.

An interim pastor will be fulfilling Koppala's duties while he's on administrative leave. 


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