Extradited priest sentenced for child sexual conduct in NW Minnesota

Following a long extradition fight, a Catholic priest from India was sentenced in Roseau County District Court Monday for criminal sexual conduct with a 16-year-old girl a decade ago.

Joseph Jeyapaul, 60, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison for the 2005 incident where he kissed, grabbed and inappropriately touched a girl on her 16th birthday.

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The sentence counts as time served because he had already been held in custody for 1,187 days, according to the county attorney's office. Jeyapaul pleaded guilty to the fourth-degree sexual conduct charges last month.

Jeyapaul is being processed through the prison system and will be transferred to the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation to India, according to prosecutor Heidi Davies.

Earlier charges of sexual misconduct with a different girl in 2004 and 2005 were dismissed, Davies said.

"There were some very significant issues that arose that would have made getting a conviction very difficult to say the least," Davies said. "This was the best end result we could hope for."

Jeyapaul fled the United States to India in August 2005 after the earlier charges became public. The Roseau County Attorney's Office requested his arrest in 2010, but Jeyapaul fought the extradition until November 2014.

The Diocese of Crookston agreed to pay $750,000 in 2011 to Megan Peterson, the victim in the earlier case.

"Although I would have loved to see Joseph Jeyapaul criminally prosecuted for what he did to me, that was not what this ten-year journey was ultimately about," Peterson wrote in a post on the website of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "It was and remains about the children and doing everything in my power to keep them safe from what I know to be harmful."

Jeyapaul had served at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Greenbush, Minn., St. Edward's Catholic Church in Karlstad, Minn., and St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Middle River, Minn.

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