Defense seeking disclosure

BLUE EARTH – The defense attorney for Father Leo Charles Koppala asked that prosecutors turn over information possibly obtained by a Faribault County deputy that could relate to the case.

Koppala, who was serving as the priest for Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Blue Earth, has been charged with second-degree criminal sexual conduct, stemming from an incident June 7 in which he allegedly engaged in sexual conduct with a child under 13 years of age.

It is alleged that Koppala, 47, fondled a child while visiting a home where the child was staying.

Attorney Philip J. Elbert reminded Judge Douglas Richards of a rule that the prosecutor has an obligation to disclose information in the possession of anyone who regularly works with the prosecutor’s office. Elbert believes the deputy might have had a conversation with a key witness in the case just after the alleged incident came to light.

Elbert said the child told the adult that evening about the alleged assault, and at some point after that the adult called the deputy, who contacted Chief Deputy Scott Adams the next morning. The case was then turned over to Blue Earth Police, who had jurisdiction.

Elbert said there are discrepancies pertaining to the type of alleged touching in the information from the adult and the information reported by the deputy to his superior officer.

Elbert offered two exhibits; one a transcript from the adult in whom the child confided after the alleged incident, the second a report by Blue Earth Police Chief Tom Fletcher.

Prosecutor Troy Timmerman said Friday’s hearing was not the proper time to submit those exhibits, but he would not object to the court receiving the exhibits, as long as any information that identifies the victim is redacted.

Richards said he would receive the two exhibits and the victim’s identification would be redacted.

When Elbert tried to explain the exhibits, Timmerman objected, saying the exhibits speak for themselves.

Elbert said he was trying to explain to the judge why he needed any information the deputy might have obtained.

“There is no report to disclose,” Timmerman said.

Timmerman said that after the child told the adult what allegedly happened, the adult called the deputy because they had a personal relationship. Timmerman stressed that the deputy was off duty when the adult called, and responded as a private citizen, not an officer of the law, so he should not be compelled to file a report.

Timmerman also said that case law rules “do not require we mandate a report.”

He said the defense has been invited to interview witnesses.

“They have chosen not to do so,” Timmerman said.

“The sole purpose of this motion today is an effort to put pressure on the victim’s family,” Timmerman said. “If they (defense) were truly interested, they would have made an attempt to interview [the deputy] and they have not done so.

Elbert said knowing who said what to whom and when could have a big impact on his case, especially where the deputy obtained his knowledge of the incident.

“As a result of that report, the full investigation started,” Elbert said after court.

He said the touching described in one report was legal, what was described in the other report is illegal.

“If the alleged victim gives two different versions of what happened – one legal and one not legal – that is reasonable doubt,” Elbert said. “The defense has a right to know if there are conflicting reports from the alleged victim.”