A Hibbing priest was charged Thursday with five counts of criminal sexual conduct for allegedly inappropriately touching three girls in incidents starting last year and continuing through this week.
The Rev. Brian Lederer, 29, parochial vicar at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Hibbing, faces up to 25 years in prison and $35,000 in fines for each of three counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, and up to 10 years in prison and $20,000 in fines for each of two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Lederer, who was arrested Tuesday and made his first appearance in court on Thursday, is being held at the St. Louis County Jail on $250,000 bail. He is scheduled to appear in court again next week.
Lederer also was involved with Assumption Catholic School associated with Blessed Sacrament Parish. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Duluth said Thursday that Lederer "has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the legal process. While on leave, he is not allowed to minister as a priest and or have contact with anyone under age 18."
According to the criminal complaint:
On Tuesday, Hibbing Police Department investigators met with a woman who reported that her two daughters - one younger than 13, the other between the ages of 13 and 16 - had been sexually assaulted by Lederer.
The two girls were interviewed and each reported that Lederer had touched them inappropriately on multiple occasions over several months - at school, and most recently at their home on Sunday. Lederer, whom the older girl described as a close family friend, was at the home for a family celebration. The older girl told investigators that while playing checkers, Lederer extended his right hand out and touched her genital area over her shorts, and also made contact with her bare thigh. She said she cried and felt scared after the incident.
Lederer was arrested at his office later Tuesday and declined to give a statement to Hibbing police.
On Thursday, after news of Lederer's arrest had been made public, a man brought his daughter to the Hibbing Police Department to report inappropriate conduct that Lederer allegedly had with her.
The girl, who is younger than 13, told an investigator that Lederer touched her inappropriately on at least three occasions over several months this school year: during a hide-and-seek game at school; in a classroom at school; and on a bus during a field trip.
Lederer was ordained in June 2012. In a statement Thursday, the Duluth Diocese said it is cooperating fully with the investigation. It said it was not aware of any allegations against Lederer before his arrest.
"We are all saddened by these events and especially for anyone who may have been hurt by sexual abuse," Father James Bissonette, vicar general of the diocese, said in a news release. "We remain absolutely committed to assisting victims, to ensuring justice is done and to doing all in our power to make our parishes and schools safe places for children."