Feds holding Koppala

BLUE EARTH – Leo Charles Koppala is back in jail after being sentenced to probation Monday for second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

After the sentencing hearing Monday in Faribault County, federal agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement took Koppala into custody, according to his attorney, Philip J. Elbert.

“He’s in Albert Lea right now, in jail on an immigration hold,” Elbert said.

Koppala could be held “until his case is resolved,” Elbert added.

Koppala could request deportation, which could take two to four weeks, according to Elbert.

“My understanding is, he’s not going to fight it,” he said.

ICE did not immediately reply to a request from the Sentinel regarding Koppala’s status.

Koppala, 47, pleaded guilty March 17 to second-degree criminal sexual conduct. He had been serving as priest for Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Blue Earth and St. Mary in Winnebago when he was charged with second-degree criminal sexual conduct, stemming from a June 7 incident in which he allegedly fondled an 11-year-old child while visiting a home where the child was staying.

Koppala is a native of India and a priest of the Nellore Diocese in South India, where he reportedly helped raise money to support an orphanage. He was serving in the local parishes under the Diocese of Winona, which placed him on administrative leave when he was accused in June. The Diocese of Winona terminated all connections with him this week, according to a diocese spokesperson.

Judge Douglas Richards sentenced Koppala to 36 months in jail and stayed the sentence, as long as Koppala abides by the terms of probation. Richards placed Koppala on supervised probation for a period of up to 25 years.

Deportation was always a possibility in this case.

“We prepare for what happens if he were in the country and we let the federal authorities and his home country deal with what happens there,” said prosecutor Troy Timmerman.