Weather Forecast


Complaint against former Greenbush priest unsealed in sex case

GRENNBUSH - A 2006 criminal complaint against a former Greenbush, Minn., priest was unsealed today in Roseau County District Court, revealing the priest was to face charges for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl in the church office in 2004 that could have put him in prison for decades if he had been convicted.

But the Rev. Joseph Jeyapaul already had left the Catholic Diocese of Crookston and the United States for his native India more than a year before the complaint was filed.

The Herald reported last week that the alleged victim, now 19, filed July 2 a civil law suit against the Diocese seeking more than $50,000 in damages, alleging it had authority and supervision over Jeyapaul, according to the criminal complaint filed in Roseau District Court.

The girl came forward in October 2006 and told the county prosecutor, who then was Michelle Moren, that Jeyapaul, who now is 54, sexually assaulted her and threatened to kill her and her family, in his living residence at the church in Greenbush.

The girl said she was praying after school in Blessed Sacrament Church in the autumn of 2004 when Jeyapaul approached her and asked her about the book she was reading. Jeyapaul then demanded she come into the rectory with him or he "would kill her family."

The girl said Jeyapaul made strange noises, began to disrobe and touch himself and told her it "was a sin" if she did not touch him. He then sexually assaulted her, including pushing her on to the couch and forcing oral sex. It was painful and it made her cough, she told the investigators, according to the complaint.

She said Jeyapaul also touched her under her clothing and told her he "could make her life miserable," if she refused to touch him. The priest told her she was a bad person and that she should kill herself and if she didn't, he would kill her and her family.

Lisa Hanson, who became Roseau County attorney in January 2007, said once the alleged victim filed a civil lawsuit last week against the Crookston diocese, she decided to ask a judge to unseal the criminal complaint.

The original warrant and complaint had been sealed in late 2006 and again, when amended with a slight detail, in early 2007.

It was done for several reasons.

"The warrant was sealed because the investigation was ongoing," Hanson said, and the county attorney's office wasn't entirely aware that Jeyapaul had already left the country and didn't want to alert him. "There was a concern about possible additional victims, and concern about the welfare of the victim if the case became public and what impact that would have on her."

Once the girl filed a civil lawsuit, Hanson said, "my thinking was, if the victim is going to be subjected to public scrutiny or public disclosure, we might as well get it done all at once."

Jeyapaul's address, as of early 2007, was St. Joseph's Church, Kalhatti Via Indunager, in Nigris, India, Hanson said. But the extradition process is lengthy and costly and must be done through the federal Department of Justice, she said.

"Money has never been the issue," Hanson said. "We are not going to put money ahead of protecting the public and seeing the victim get justice."

She plans to continue ongoing meetings with the victim and her family about pursuing Jeyapaul's prosecution, and also to discuss with Justice Department officials how to secure his return.

Jeyapaul was in the Crookston diocese as an "invited" priest from India for less than a year when he left in September 2005 ostensibly to care for a sick relative, said Monsignor David Baumgartner, vicar general of the diocese. He never returned, and although the diocese tried to help the county attorney with information about him, the diocese has no authority over Jeyapaul and can't order him to return, Baumgartner told the Herald last week.

SNAP, the Survivors Network of people Abused by Priests, has worked with Jeffrey Anderson, the St. Paul attorney well-known for suing Catholic church dioceses and officials in sex abuse cases, in this case. Steve Anderson, a Warroad, Minn., attorney and no relation to Jeffrey Anderson, is representing the alleged victim in both the lawsuit against the diocese and the criminal case involving Jeyapaul.

The county's complaint against Jeyapaul recommends, if he ever should face a court, that he be charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, each caring a mandatory minimum sentence of 144 months and a maximum of 30 years and $40,000 fine. The first count says he coerced the victim, and the second alleges he put her in fear of imminent great bodily harm.

There are no other cases or evidence of criminal conduct by Jeyapaul against other victims in the county, Hanson said.

Parishioners had come to diocesan officials in August 2005 with concerns about Jeyapaul seeming to "groom" one or more young people for what would be inappropriate relationships, but nothing criminal and nothing involving the alleged victim in the criminal complaint, Baumgartner said.

The diocese did not learn of the victims allegations and the criminal complaint until October 2006, Baumgartner said, more than a year after Jeyapaul had left the country.

He served a few weeks in Thief River Falls in fall 2004, and then in Blessed Sacrament in Greenbush until he left in September 2005, Baumgartner said.