Creepy

Hibbing priest seeks dismissal of sex abuse charges
By Tom Olsen on Oct 28, 2015 at 8:00 p.m.

An attorney for the Hibbing priest accused of sexually abusing four girls is seeking to have his client’s criminal charges dismissed, alleging that the case is the result of an overzealous prosecution fueled by the ongoing child sexual abuse controversy in the Catholic Church.

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The Rev. Brian Michael Lederer, 29, faces seven felony charges related to the alleged inappropriate touching of the girls and possession of child pornography.

Lederer’s defense attorney, Peter Wold of Minneapolis, contended in a motion filed last week in State District Court that there is a lack of probable cause to substantiate the charges.

Wold said in a 17-page memorandum that the church has been “rocked” by abuse allegations, which he argued has led to a “cultural shift” in the perception of interactions between clergy and parishioners.

“Hugs are no longer gestures of caring, but sexual advances,” Wold wrote. “Games played with kids are no longer innocent activities, but opportunities of sexual assault. But, the fear that an innocent touch is actually a sexual advance is not the standard in a criminal court. Real evidence that establishes a reasonable probability that a facially innocent act occurred with sexual intent must be presented.”

Lederer was a parochial vicar at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Hibbing until he was charged in May.

Two sisters, one younger than 13 and one between the ages of 13 and 16, reported that Lederer had touched them inappropriately on multiple occasions over numerous months, according to the charges. The older girl told investigators that Lederer touched her genital area over her shorts, and also touched her bare thigh.

After news of Lederer’s arrest was made public, another pretreen girl came forward to report that Lederer had touched her inappropriately on at least three occasions: during a hide-and-seek game at school, in a classroom at school and on a bus during a field trip, according to the charges.

A fourth victim later came forward, resulting in additional charges. Authorities said at least five images of child pornography were also found on Lederer’s computer.

Wold contended that Lederer’s habit of embracing the girls by placing his arm around their shoulders was never viewed as sexual by teachers, parents or other students.

“Yet the State has painted this act of caring as a sexual perversion of Mr. Lederer,” the attorney argued. “The twisting by the State of what was obviously a common occurrence does not make it a sexual act just because the state says so. There must be some evidence that suggests Mr. Lederer’s outstretched arm was meant to fill a sexual desire.”

St. Louis County prosecutor Jeff Vlatkovich told the News Tribune on Wednesday he is “vigorously opposed” to the motion to dismiss the charges. He said he would file a full response in the coming weeks.

Lederer is charged with four counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of possession of child pornography. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 25 years in prison on the most serious charges.

Lederer was ordained in 2012 and has worked at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Hibbing and the Assumption Catholic School.

The Diocese of Duluth said in May 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 or have contact with anyone younger than 18, the diocese said.

He remains free after posting a $250,000 bond in May.

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