Indian-Origin Catholic Priest Arrested in U.S. On Charges of Child Sexual Abuse
Fr. John Praveen was charged with two counts of making sexual contact with a minor under 16 and has been suspended from the ministry in the Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota.
An Indian-origin catholic priest has been arrested in Rapid City, South Dakota, and charged with two counts of making sexual contact with a child aged under 16 years.
The local police arrested Fr. John Praveen on Oct. 2 following a joint investigation conducted by the Rapid City Police Department and the Pennington County Sheriff’s office. The investigation started on Sept. 30 after the minor approached the police, alleging two separate cases of sexual contact with the priest. Praveen hails from Telangana and had been deputed to preach at a Rapid City diocese in South Dakota state, the police said in a statement.
Praveen, 38, was produced before a magistrate judge via video conferencing the day after his arrest, where the judge kept his bond at $100,000. The preliminary hearing into the case is scheduled for Oct. 18, reported Capital Journal.
Praveen served with the Sanjeev Sadana Society (Holy Spirit Fathers) in Telangana before being transferred to the United States, according to the Indian Express.
“On October 2nd, local law enforcement arrested 38-year-old John Praveen (AKA John Praveen Kumar Itukulapati) for two counts of Sexual Contact with a Child Under 16, a class 3 felony which carries a punishment of up to 15 years in prison and/or a $30,000 fine on each count,” the Rapid City Police said in a statement. “The investigation began on Sept.30, when a juvenile victim came forward to report the incidents. The investigation revealed that Praveen made sexual contact with the child on two separate occasions.”
Terming the case as high priority, the police are asking people to share any information that they may have against Praveen to help them with further investigations.
Praveen came to the Catholic Diocese of Rapid City in November 2017 on a temporary basis for 10 years, the Capital Journal said. At first, he was assigned originally to All Saints Church in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, and at the time of his arrest, he was serving as the parochial vicar at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Rapid City.
“The Diocese of Rapid City became aware of allegations that a priest from India had sexual contact with a child under 16 years of age. Fr. John Praveen Itukulapati, a member of the Holy Spirit Fathers of India, has been serving in the diocese since November 2017,” the Journal reported, citing a statement issued by the Cathedral.
“The diocese learned of this allegation from the Rapid City Police Department and the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office on Monday evening. The Diocese of Rapid City is fully cooperating with law enforcement in this ongoing investigation. Fr. Praveen has been arrested and will make his first court appearance tomorrow. Bishop Robert Gruss has also removed him from all ministry in the Diocese of Rapid City,” the statement added.
Bishop Gruss told the publication that the diocese conducted a background verification on Praveen but did not go into the details as the check did not indicate behavior that would cause any worries.
“There is nothing in his background to suggest such behavior. His religious superiors in India verified that he was a priest in good standing,” Gruss was quoted as saying in the report.