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Jury finds former Hastings priest not guilty of sex abuse

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Francis Hoefgen
Francis Hoefgen
Courtesy Dakota County Sheriff

A Dakota County jury acquitted former priest Francis Hoefgen Tuesday. A man had accused Hoefgen of abusing him more than 20 years ago.

Hoefgen, 64, of Columbia Heights had been charged with two counts of criminal sexual conduct.  

A man reported the abuse to police in November 2013. He said he was molested from age 9 to 12 years old when he served as altar boy at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Hastings.

The jury arrived at the verdict in less than four hours. 

In a statement released after the jury's decision was read in court, Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said he was grateful to the victim for coming forward. 

"Proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime occurred 24-26 years ago without significant corroborating physical evidence of the crime itself is always a difficult task," Backstrom said.