A Roman Catholic priest from India facing charges of sexually abusing a teenage girl in the Crookston Diocese 10 years ago has been extradited to Minnesota.
The Rev. Joseph Jeyapaul arrived Monday in Minneapolis — a rare instance of a foreign priest returning to face charges of child sex abuse in the United States.
“We have been waiting for five years,” said Karen Foss, Roseau County attorney, whose office first sought extradition in 2009.
“He was taken into custody [in India] in March of 2012, and has been filing motions to appeal the extraditions since then,” Foss said.
The priest’s arrival in Minnesota came just days after a New Delhi appeals court denied his latest motion to remain in his home country.
Jeyapaul’s extradition is rare, said Patrick Wall, a former priest and investigator for the law firm of Jeff Anderson, which represented Jeyapaul’s victim in a civil case.
“I know of no other priest who has been extradited to face criminal prosecution” in Minnesota, Wall said. More often, foreign priests who abuse children are sent back to their home country, he said.
Jeyapaul was expected to travel Tuesday to Roseau County, where he will be jailed, Foss said.
Jeyapaul, 59, has been charged with sexually molesting a then 14-year-old girl on multiple occasions during 2004 while he served at the Blessed Sacrament Church in Greenbush. He served in northern Minnesota for about a year.
The criminal complaint states that Jeyapaul masturbated in front of the girl, forced her to perform oral sex and sexually touched her. After he finished, he threatened her and told her not to tell anyone.
The diocese did not learn of the abuse until 2005, according to church documents, and by that time Jeyapaul had returned to India, allegedly to care for his mother. In 2006, another Minnesota teen also accused him of abuse.
The diocese reported the abuse to the Sheriff’s Office in October 2005, according to church documents. The county attorney’s office filed extradition papers five years ago.
Jeyapaul remained working in India until 2012, when he was arrested. He has been in jail there since.
The first girl who accused the priest of abuse, Megan Peterson, filed a lawsuit against Jeyapaul that was settled out of court with the Crookston Diocese in 2011.
Wall attributed the extradition to the presence of a strong abuse survivor prepared to fight the case, a prosecutor willing to stay the course, and Indian law enforcement authorities willing to apprehend him.
The diocese said it supports the extradition.
“The Diocese of Crookston has publicly and repeatedly supported the process of returning Jeyapaul to Roseau to face the serious charges against him,” said Susan Gaertner, an attorney for the diocese.
Across the nation, very few foreign priests who have abused children ever return for their day in court, said David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
“I’d say no more than two dozen during the 25 years I’ve been involved in these issues,” he said.