Pioneer Press: A Blue Earth priest who raises funds for orphans in his native India has been charged with second-degree criminal sexual conduct in a case involving an 11-year-old girl, according to the Faribault County attorney’s office.
Leo Charles Koppala, 47, of the Catholic Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Blue Earth was taken into custody by Blue Earth city police about 8:30 p.m. Saturday, according to Faribault County jail records.
Koppala had been invited to dinner at the home of a relative of the girl Friday evening, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday in Faribault County District Court.
The adult relative took a phone call during the evening. Koppala went down to the basement where the girl was watching TV and told her he was glad to have gotten away from the relative, the complaint said.
He then pulled the girl up from where she had been sitting, “kissed (her) on the cheek and lips … put one hand on her lower back and the other on her chest,” the complaint said. The girl told police Koppala moved his hand around, fondling her breasts, according to the complaint.
“Koppala told (the girl) that when she was done with school he wanted to come to her house so they could be free together… (and) told her that he loved her,” the complaint said.
The relative confirmed to police that she had gotten a phone call that evening and that Koppala went downstairs. When the girl came back up from downstairs, followed by Koppala, the relative could tell
from her demeanor that “she was upset about something,” according to the complaint.
The girl told her relative after Koppala left what had happened, the complaint said.
Koppala told police he had dinner at the home Friday and went downstairs afterward during the relative’s phone call, according to the complaint.
“He agreed that he had kissed (the girl) on the cheeks and mouth. He admitted to placing his hand on her chest but did not believe he touched her breasts,” the complaint said. “Koppala admitted that he told (the girl) that they could be free together but explained that he meant something different.”
The complaint did not elaborate on that point.
Bishop John Quinn of the Diocese of Winona issued a written statement Monday saying he had placed Koppala on administrative leave “in accordance with the diocesan policy for the protection of minors.”
Koppala is not allowed to exercise his ministry or live at any parish property in the Winona diocese while the investigation continues, Quinn wrote. No other allegation “of this nature” had been received regarding Koppala, the bishop wrote.
Koppala’s website, “Orphan and Poor Children Education,” refers to his fundraising effort as “my Mission.” He requests that donors send contributions to him at Saints Peter and Paul in Blue Earth. A sponsorship for a child is $40, the website states.
Emily Gurnon can be reached at 651-228-5522. Follow her at twitter.com/emilygurnon.