Diocese offers to house priest accused of sexual misconduct

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) -- West River Catholic authorities have offered to house and supervise a suspended priest accused of having sexual contact with a minor, a judge was told Tuesday.

Father John Praveen remains in custody in the Pennington County Jail with bail set at $100,000 cash only. In court Tuesday Praveen's attorney John Murphy asked that Praveen be released pending trial. Murphy told Seventh Circuit Judge Robert Mandel that Father Michel Mulloy of the Diocese of Rapid City would put Praveen under the supervision of the diocese at Casa Maria, a church property in Piedmont for retired priests. "Father John will be monitored," Murphy said adding that no children are present at Casa Maria.

Prosecutors objected and asked that bond remain at $100,000. Deputy State's Attorney Kelsey Weber said that Praveen, who is from India, has scant ties to the community and presents a flight risk. Weber said that she had heard talk that associates of Praveen's in India have been trying to raise the $100,000 bond sum.

Judge Mandel did not rule on Murphy's request to lower the bond amount and instead asked the defense and the prosecution to confer and perhaps present a compromise to the court at a later date.

Praveen was scheduled to enter a plea Tuesday but that was postponed because a translator could not be reached by phone. Praveen speaks Telugu, one of 22 languages spoken in India. Murphy told the court Praveen does not speak English fluently.

Praveen, who's full name is John Praveen Kumar Itukulapati, was ordained in 2009 in India where he is from. He came to the Rapid City Diocese in November 2017 and originally served on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. He transferred down to the Rapid City Cathedral in the early summer of 2018.

He was arrested on Oct. 22 following a joint Rapid City Police and Pennington County Sheriff's Office investigation. He is accused of having sexual contact with a 13-year-old girl on two occasions. Sexual contact with a child under 16 is a class 3 felony carrying a maximum of 15 years in prison and/or a $60,000 fine.

Mandel set Preveen's arraignment for Nov. 16 at 11 a.m. The judge said he would also address Praveen's bond at that hearing.