HIBBING, Minn. – A jury on Monday acquitted a Hibbing priest accused of molesting four girls.
After closing arguments, jurors deliberated about two hours before finding Brian Lederer, 30, not guilty on all counts.
Lederer was facing four counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, all felonies. He was arrested and charged in May 2015, and then placed on administrative leave by the Diocese of Duluth.
The alleged incidents happened during the 2014-15 school year after hours at Assumption Catholic School. Prosecutors said another incident happened at a home and others occurred on a school bus. The four girls ranged in age from 10 to 13 at the time of the alleged incidents.
Lederer, who was the lone witness for the defense, took the stand Friday to deny the allegations. He had no comment after his acquittal, the Hibbing Daily Tribune reported. The girls and their parents were not present when the verdict was read.
Defense attorney Peter Wold said the jury reached the right verdict given the evidence, which he said “did not hang well” in this case.
Prosecutor Jeff Vlatkovich called the verdict disappointing, but added, “we respect the work of the jury.”
Vlatkovich praised the girls for testifying. “Four brave girls took oaths and testified about what happened to them,” he said.
Lederer still faces a felony charge of possession of pornographic work. He pleaded not guilty to that charge in November. Judge David E. Ackerson separated that charge from the criminal sexual conduct charges before the trial.