Hibbing Priest Charged with Sexual Misconduct with Three Minors

WDIO ABC News/May 7, 2015

A Hibbing priest is charged with five felony counts of sexual misconduct with a minor.

Twenty-nine-year-old Brian Michael Lederer was taken into custody Tuesday afternoon by the Hibbing Police Department and is being held in the St. Louis County Jail.

Formal charges were filed on Thursday, listing three victims. Two of the victims were under 13 years old, and one was under 16.

Lederer faces three counts of criminal sexual conduct in the second degree, and two counts of criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree, which also list him as a being in a position of authority over the complainant.

In the criminal complaint, a victim said Lederer would pull on her bra strap and rub her butt. The complaint describes another incident in which Lederer allegedly touched one victim's crotch through her underwear.

The complaint says one victim was "sobbing" while recounting the alleged incidents to police. Another told police she would "sweat very badly and have a bad feeling around (lederer)."

The alleged victims came forward this week, saying that the sexual abuse started about a year ago and happened on a school playground, by a drinking fountain there and in classrooms. The most recent incident, allegedly occurred while Lederer was a guest in a parishioner's home for a family celebration.

"We're all saddened by this," said the Rev. James Bissonette is Vicar General for the Duluth Diocese. "In the case of a clergy man, it just shouldn't happen, and when it does, it shocks everyone."

Bissonette said the diocese's concern is with the victims and their families. He said the church is available to help the families with answering questions and providing professional counseling for victims, but starting the healing process starts with something more simple.

"First of all, you can believe their story, and that means a lot."

He said another pastor at the parishes in Hibbing has been speaking with parishioners and the diocese is offering support as well. Bissonette said despite an active effort since 1991 to screen and train clergy and other church leaders who work with children, human "evil" exists. 

"Obviously this has happened, and we have to address it," Bissonette said.

The diocese has put Lederer on administrative leave, which means he cannot act or present himself as a priest or be on church or school grounds until the matter has been resolved.

The diocese is also asking any other victims to come forward to the church or to law enforcement.

The Diocese of Duluth says Lederer is a parochial vicar at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Hibbing. The sign at Immaculate Conception Church in Hibbing also lists him as being an associate pastor at that church.

"While the circumstances leading to his arrest are currently unknown to us and while we believe (the man) is entitled to the presumption of innocence, we take this development very seriously and are monitoring it closely," the diocese said in a statement.

"We will cooperate fully with civil authorities in any investigation and, as more facts emerge in this case, we will uphold our responsibilities to civil law, to church law and under our policies and procedures for the protection of young people. We continue to pray for all those affected by sexual abuse and urge anyone who has been a victim of it to come forward to church authorities and to civil authorities," the statement said.

Lederer was scheduled to appear in court at 2 p.m. on Thursday. The Diocese said Lederer was ordained in June 2012 and the Hibbing churches were his first assignment in July 2012 after becoming a priest.

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