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Koppola granted another hearing

By Staff | Feb 16, 2014

A former Blue Earth priest facing criminal sexual conduct charges was granted a probable cause hearing during an arraignment on Feb. 10 in Faribault County District Court.

Father Leo Charles Koppola, 47, was serving as a priest for Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Blue Earth and has been charged with second-degree criminal sexual conduct from an alleged event on June 7.

Judge Douglas Richards granted Koppola’s request for the probable cause hearing on the basis of Phillip Albert, Koppola’s defense attorney, wants to call a witness and further examine the initial interview between Blue Earth Police Chief Tom Fletcher and Koppola.

However, according to county attorney Troy Timmerman, all motions related to probable cause or other evidentiary issues were held during the Omnibus hearing on Dec. 16.

“Issues not raised at the Omnibus hearing are, for the most part, deemed waived,” Timmerman says. “I suspect Judge Richards granted the motion out of an abundance of caution about creating appellate issues.”

In this instance, defense counsel was asked in correspondence dated Dec. 9, 2013, if he intended to raise any issues other than the admissibility of Mr. Koppola’s statement. He responded by saying that was the sole issue, according to Timmerman.

“We again raised the issue of probable cause on the record at the Omnibus hearing and Judge Richards actually made a finding of probable cause at that time,” he says.

Albert says after listening to the full audio of the initial interview between Koppola and Fletcher, he wants an expert to review the material and make sure the interview was conducted appropriately.

“I also have suspicions about the language used,” Albert says. “I will need additional time to look into this issue.”

According to Timmerman, the state objected to the request and believed the hearing would prolong this process and harass the alleged victim’s family.

In regards to the validity of Fletcher’s interview, Timmerman says the concern with very young children is the interviewer can inadvertently ask suggestive questions which can cause a young child to answer in a certain way.

“I do not believe there are any such concerns. Specifically, in this case, the victim is intelligent and well spoken,” he explains. “There is no chance that her answers to any questions were the result of suggestive questioning. I do not have any concerns about the interview.”

Albert also told Judge Richards he provided the prosecutor with a written request to see the notes Fletcher took during the initial interview with Koppola. He believes they will be important at the probable cause hearing, which was set for March 17, at 10 a.m.