A Roman Catholic priest charged with sexually assaulting a teenage parishioner in Minnesota said Tuesday he would willingly leave his native India and try to clear his name in the courts if the United States tried to extradite him.
The Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, 55, has never faced the criminal charges in the United States. The bishop who oversees him has said that he overruled a Vatican recommendation that Jeyapaul be removed from the priesthood and applied his own lesser punishment instead.
"I am ready to go because I am innocent. I am ready to prove I did not do any wrong," said Jeyapaul, who works in the diocese's office handling paperwork for schools.
When that might happen was unclear. Lisa Hanson, the prosecutor in northern Minnesota's Roseau County, has refused to provide details of her efforts or explain why Jeyapaul hadn't yet been brought back. Department of Justice spokeswoman Laura Sweeney said the agency doesn't comment on extradition matters.
"We want justice for the victim here and we want to do whatever we can to protect potential future victims everywhere," Hanson said Monday.