Richards Won't Budge on Bail for Jailed Priest

By Jodelle Greiner
Fairmont Sentinel
June 18, 2013

BLUE EARTH - Father Leo Charles Koppala will remain in the Faribault County Jail after District Judge Douglas Richards ordered more information on his immigration status and refused to lower his bail during a hearing Monday at Faribault County Law Enforcement Center.

Koppala, who was serving as the priest for Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Blue Earth, has been charged with second-degree criminal sexual conduct. The charges stem from an incident June 7 in which Koppala allegedly engaged in sexual conduct with a child under 13 years of age, with the defendant being more than 36 months older than the child. Charges allege that Koppala, 47, fondled the child while visiting a home where the child was staying.

Koppala, a native of India, was provided an interpreter to translate the questions from English to the dialect he speaks.

Koppala's public defender, Philip J. Elbert, requested an omnibus hearing and stated he planned to contest the search warrants and the evidence gathered.

Richards set the omnibus hearing for 10 a.m. July 8 for the purpose of determining probable cause and to see if Koppala's constitutional rights were violated.

Albert also requested that Judge Richards lower Koppala's bail, which was set at $75,000, saying his client couldn't pay it. He requested it be reduced to $20,000, which he said his client could afford.

Koppala had been living at the church. Since his arrest, the Diocese of Winona has placed Koppala on administrative leave. While on administrative leave, Koppala is not permitted to exercise his public ministry or live on any parish property in the Diocese of Winona, pending the outcome of an investigation.

Elbert said if Koppala could make bail, there was a couple who had agreed to let him stay with them.

The state opposed the request, said Troy Timmerman, prosecuting attorney.

"The facts of the case are being added to," he said.

The case is still being processed by the Blue Earth Police Department, with assistance from the Faribault County Sheriff's Office.

"We want him to stay in custody," Timmerman said.

Timmerman raised the question of Koppala's immigration status, pointing out to Richards that Koppala might be placed on immigration hold.

Koppala is in the United States on a work visa, Sheriff Mike Gormley said.

Immigration Customs Enforcement can put an immigration hold on a person believed to be an illegal alien who is in state custody, according to ICE has 48 hours to pick up the inmate once the county's interest in the inmate is fulfilled or once the inmate posts bond.

Elbert said in court there is no official immigration hold until after conviction.

Richards wants the immigration hold determined. Once the court receives that, he said, it will take into consideration Elbert's request.

"The present bail remains in effect," Richards ordered.


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