Rapid City priest suspected of sexual contact with a minor
RAPID CITY, S.D. – The latest coverage on a Rapid City area priest suspect of sexual contact with a minor. COURT DETAILS
Friday, November 16, 2018
John Praveen, 38, a former Catholic priest in Rapid City, sat in court shoulders slumped and eyes down. On Friday, he pleaded not guilty to two counts of sexual contact with a child under the age of 16.
He was part of the Holy Spirit Fathers in India and moved to Rapid City in June. He became an active member of the Rapid City Diocese in November 2017. He is so new to the U.S. that he is not proficient in English. All court appearances require an interpreter.
The child, just 13-years-old, claims the encounters happened in September of this year. The crime was not documented until Oct. 17, 2018.
If found guilty, Praveen can be sentenced to up to 15 years for each count and/or fined $30,000.
His attorney John Murphy still addresses his client as Father Praveen. Murphy requested and was granted non-evidentiary motions hearing. The hearing is scheduled for Dec.18, 2018.
Bond for John Praveen has been set at $100,000 cash only.
According to the Rapid City Police Department, the suspected sexual contact occurred within the last month, and no other victims have reached out.
“People could say it’s a black eye to the church,” said Bishop Robert Gruss. “There’s no question about that. Is it detrimental to peoples’ faith? That’s up to the individual. It’s not the church that’s doing this; it’s a priest committing an individual act.”
The Rapid City Catholic Diocese has released a statement:
“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 in India, has been serving in the Diocese since November 2017. 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.
“We encourage anyone who believes they might have had a similar experience to contact the authorities or the Victims Assistance Coordinator (605-209-3418). Our prayers and concerns go out to this the young person and the family, and all those who have suffered from any type of abuse.”
A Rapid City area priest is charged with two counts of sexual contact with a child under 16.
John Praveen aka John Praveen Kumar Itukulapati, 38, was arrested Tuesday. If convicted, Praveen could serve up to 15 years in prison and/or a $30,000 fine on each count.
Authorities say a juvenile victim reported the incidents Sunday. After a joint investigation conducted by the Rapid City Police Department and the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, it was determined that Praveen made sexual contact with the child on two separate occasions.
“This is obviously an ongoing, high-priority investigation,” says Capt. Corey Brubakken of the PCSO Criminal Investigations Division. “If there is anybody out there that may have information relevant to this investigation, we would encourage them to contact Investigator Jesse Fagerland at 394-6115.”
Praveen is from India and is a member of the Holy Spirit Fathers. He’s been in Rapid City since last November to do ministry in the dioceses. He’s listed as a parochial vicar at the Rapid City Catholic Diocese. A parochial vicar acts as an assistant to the pastor.
Bishop Robert Gruss said that Praveen was highly regarded by his former employers. He also said that he went through extensive background checks and “safe environment training,” which both priests and students in the church are required to take.
“They are taught; they learn the signs of what this behavior might look like,” said Gruss. “In this training and teaching, they are encouraged to go to the proper authorities in their world to report things that seem odd to them.”
This case has been forwarded to the Pennington County State’s Attorney Office for prosecution.
The RCPD and PCSO would like to extend their appreciation to leadership of the Rapid City Catholic Diocese for their cooperation during the investigation.