MINNEAPOLIS — A Catholic priest from India – who previously worked with the Diocese of Winona, Minnesota – was deported Wednesday following his conviction for sexually assaulting a minor under 13 years old.
This deportation was conducted by officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) in Bloomington, Minnesota.
Leo Charles Koppala, 48, was escorted by ICE officers on a commercial flight and turned over to Indian authorities May 14 in New Delhi, India.
On June 8, 2013, the Blue Earth (Minnesota) Police Department arrested Koppala and charged him with second-degree criminal sexual conduct. The victim was 12 years old at the time of the offense. On June 10, 2013, Koppala posted bail and was released from local custody.
Koppala was convicted March 31 at the Faribault County District Court at Blue Earth of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, and was sentenced to 31 days, with credit for time served, and 25 years supervised probation.
Upon his release from Faribault County, Koppala was arrested by ICE officers and issued a notice to appear before a federal immigration judge. While in ICE custody, Koppala signed a stipulation agreeing not to contest his deportation. On April 1, 2014, a federal immigration judge ordered Koppala's deportation.
"ICE uses our unique immigration-enforcement authorities to help safeguard our communities from criminal aliens who pose a public safety threat," said Scott Baniecke, field office director for ERO St. Paul. "Koppala held a position of trust in the Catholic Church and the community. He broke that trust. We sincerely hope that his permanent removal from the United States will help the healing process for the victim and the victim's family."
Following his criminal conviction, Koppala was relieved of his ministry and discharged from service by the Diocese of Winona, which also alerted the bishop of his home diocese in Nellore, India. Any action to have Koppala removed as a priest from the Catholic Church must be effected by his diocese in India and the Vatican.