BLUE EARTH - Nine months after being arrested for allegedly touching a child inappropriately, Father Leo Charles Koppala pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree criminal sexual conduct, a felony.
"I'm saying I did it," Koppala replied when Judge Douglas Richards asked how he pleaded. "Yes, I'm saying guilty."
He will be sentenced at 9 a.m. March 31.
Koppala, 47, who had been serving Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Blue Earth and St. Mary in Winnebago, was charged with second-degree criminal sexual conduct, stemming from a June 7 incident in which he allegedly fondled a child while visiting a home where the child was staying.
Koppala's omnibus hearing Monday began with installing a new Tamil interpreter, since Koppala is a native of India and Tamil is his native language.
Then Richards called a recess, which lasted for nearly three hours. When court resumed, defense attorney Philip J. Elbert announced the sides had come to an agreement in the case.
"We consulted with the victim before we finished. I think they're happy with the outcome," said prosecutor Troy Timmerman.
Koppala pleaded guilty to the charge through an Alford plea, meaning he agreed there was enough evidence for the prosecution to prove the charge.
Koppala served 45 days in jail and will probably not face any additional jail time, Timmerman said.
The felony charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and a $35,000 fine. Koppala could be sentenced to probation and would have to register as a sex offender.
Since Koppala is not a citizen of the United States, he could be deported, but whether that happens is up to the federal government, Timmerman said.
"Under the federal guidelines, he should be deported for this," he said.
Koppala remains free on bail, but is required to be present for sentencing.
"I'm happy with the outcome as it involved him pleading guilty," Timmerman said. "I think this is very good for the community to put this behind it."