Hibbing priest charged in felony sexual conduct with three underage girls

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A Hibbing priest charged with five counts of criminal sexual conduct could face life in prison, if convicted.

The Northland's News Center reports that the Rev. Brian Lederer, who has served at Blessed Sacrament Church since 2012, made his first appearance in St. Louis County Court Thursday.

MPR News reports the man is accused of allegedly touching three teenaged girls over their clothing in separate incidents between about August 2014 and last Sunday.

Two of the victims are under age of 13 and the third is under age 16.

According to the Duluth News Tribune, a Hibbing mother told police that Lederer had touched her two daughters inappropriately on multiple occasions over several months — at school, and most recently at their home on Sunday. After news of the arrest had been made public, a father brought his daughter to Hibbing Police to report inappropriate conduct that Lederer allegedly had with the girl.

A statement released Thursday by the Diocese of Duluth said, "Much still remains unknown, and we continue to learn about the circumstances that led to Father Lederer's arrest. Diocesan officials were not aware of any allegations against him prior to his arrest."

Lederer was arrested at his office Tuesday and declined to give a statement to Hibbing police.

Lederer has been placed on administrative leave and "is not allowed to minister as a priest and or have contact with anyone under age 18" while on leave, according to the Diocese.

"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. "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."

He is being held on $250,000 bail. He's expected to be back in court on May 14.

Lederer was ordained a priest in June 2012. Pictures of his ordination are on the website of St. Paul Catholic Church in Plainfield, Wisconsin.

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