The Free Press, Mankato, MN

March 18, 2014

Blue Earth priest pleads guilty in sex abuse case

The Mankato Free Press

---- — WINONA — A Blue Earth-area priest has admitted to fondling a girl while he was attending dinner at her grandmother's home.

The Rev. Leo Koppala pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a victim younger than 13. He'll be sentenced March 31.

The Diocese of Winona says the 47-year-old Koppala came to the diocese in September 2008. He spent time at the Church of the Resurrection in Rochester. In 2009, he was assigned to the Catholic Church of Ss. Peter and Paul in Blue Earth and to St. Mary's in Winnebago.

He was charged last June and placed on leave. The diocese says he'll remain on leave until the court proceedings end. He'll then likely be deported to his native India.

According to the criminal court complaint, Koppala was having dinner with the girl and her family on June 7. At one point, the girl went downstairs to watch television. Koppala went downstairs, pulled her up from where she was sitting and kissed her on the cheeks and lips. He then put one hand on her lower back and the other on her chest, according to the complaint.

Koppala told the girl he loved her and when she was done with school he wanted to come to her house so they could be free together, according to the complaint.

Messages left with Koppala's attorney and prosecutors weren't immediately returned.

The Associated Press