Crookston Diocese settles with fugitive priest's sex abuse victim

Categories: Crime
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Jeff Anderson and Megan Peterson spoke about Joseph Jeyapaul's offenses.
Joseph Jeyapaul might never face trial for what he did to Megan Peterson, but the Crookston Diocese has made its own choice not to fight the case.

Yesterday, Peterson's attorney Jeff Anderson announced a "groundbreaking" settlement of $750,000, with the Diocese paying out large amount for Jeyapaul's long-ago sin.

Along with the sum of money, the Diocese has agreed to post Jeyapaul's picture and information about the case on its website. It has also promised to reach out to and work with other potential victims of Jeyapaul's.

In his press conference, with a visibly upset Peterson by his side, Anderson said the lawsuit and settlement were about more than what Jeyapaul did to Peterson.

"We are here today because we are scared -- we are very scared," Anderson said. "We are scared because we know that Joseph Jeyapaul, a priest from India, raped Megan as a child. We know he did it to others, and we also know that he was allowed to flee to India. And we also know that Joseph Jeyapaul, the priest offender, has been and was in ministry -- and still is, as far as we know."

The accusations against Jeyapaul are detailed in a graphic criminal complaint filed by Roseau County in March 2007. At that time, Peterson said that when she was 14 or 15 Jeyapaul masturbated in front of her, forced her to give him oral sex, and groped her. When it was over, Jeyapaul said he or someone else could kill her if she told anyone about it.

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Joseph Jeyapaul told ABC News he's not guilty.
In the spring of 2010, ABC News located Jeyapaul in India, where he was still working as a Catholic minister. Jeyapaul denied Peterson's accusations against him, and said he would be willing to return to the United States for a trial.

"I did not commit any sin against anybody," Jeyapaul told ABC News. "They are asking money from the Diocese. That is the motive behind it."

In one of Jeyapaul's e-mails to another suspected victim, most of which are repetitive and written with poor grammar, he makes reference to Peterson's wanting to "tell the bishop the truth."

"So everything i sacrificed for you i lost my good friends in greenbush on account of you i was unable to come back to greenbush. But now you tell that you want to tell the bishop the truth. But now you tell that you want to tell the bishop the truth. It made me angry and mad. I love you so much but you don't understand me again and again you want to spoil my name."
In that e-mail and others, Jeyapaul makes repeated reference to his desire for that victim -- who has not come forward, and is not named -- to come visit him in India. He asks for her measurements to he can have clothes made for her, and tells her they can go wherever she wants when she gets there.

Megan Peterson struggled through yesterday's press conference, but reiterated the case was about more than just her.

"I want people to know that, you know, they don't have to come forward with their names," Peterson said. "But for me I just want to take action and do the best I can to protect kids and let people know they're not alone."

According to the Pioneer Press, the press conference became too much for Peterson at one point, and she left the room in distress. Later, she told reporters she'd needed to get away because she "felt sick."

The Diocese has yet to post anything about Jeyapaul on its website as of this morning, but does have a webpage which lists a 24-hour confidential phone number that priest abuse victims can call.
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