Fr. Victor Franz Jagerstatter, administrator of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Mountain Home, Idaho, has been charged with raping a Mountain Home Air Force airman early July 9 while the man was unconscious in a room allegedly rented from the priest.
News reports of the 39-year-old Jagerstatter's arrest on July 22 stated he had been accused of "sexual abuse and exploitation of a vulnerable adult."
By the time of arraignment on Monday in Mountain Home, however, "prosecutors had changed that to one count of rape, a felony that specifically requires penetration to have occurred during the offense," reported the Idaho Statesman newspaper.
A redacted copy of the July 25 Affidavit of Probable Cause for Arrest, obtained by NCR, states that a sexual assault evidence kit was employed after the alleged victim reported a sexual assault to the Mountain Home Air Base family advocacy unit. The exact time and date are redacted.
The affidavit says the alleged victim then made a report to the air base's Office of Special Investigation on July 11, and an interview was done. The base is located about 12 miles southwest of Mountain Home, a municipality of roughly 16,000.
The Mountain Home police consequently took over the investigation because the alleged incident took place in their jurisdiction, a police department spokesperson told NCR. The officer also confirmed that a no-contact order had been granted to the accuser against Jagerstatter.
According to the Idaho Statesman, nearly 100 parishioners from Our Lady of Good Counsel and parishes where Jagerstatter had served in Weiser and Caldwell, "overflowed into the courtroom. Many were wearing 'I Stand with Fr. Victor' badges. Others carried posters which read 'Fr. Victor is innocent.'"
Magistrate Judge David Epis "cited the crowd as part of the reason for releasing Jagerstatter without bond, saying those supporters would help ensure he showed up in court," reported the Idaho Statesmen.
Prosecutors had asked for a $20,000 bond.
According to the newspaper, Jagerstatter's attorney "asked for a preliminary hearing that is now set for 3 p.m. Aug. 8. At such a hearing, prosecutors must convince the judge that a case merits advancing to district court and a full trial."
On the day Jagerstatter was arrested, the Boise diocese issued a three-sentence media release pledging full cooperation with law enforcement and stating that the priest had been placed on administrative leave.
As of July 26, the diocese had not responded to questions about where Jagerstatter would be residing, why the cleric had changed his last name from Manuel to Jagerstatter in recent years, if the room rented by the accuser was parish property, and about other biographical background.
"The Diocese is not issuing any statements or comments other than the one you have received at this time," wrote David Llamas, diocesan executive director of communications, in an email to NCR on July 26.
In the affidavit, the alleged victim says he returned to his home in the early hours of July 9, highly intoxicated after an evening drinking with friends. He claims he passed out on top of his bed wearing a T-shirt and jeans, but awoke exposed and with an erection, with Jagerstatter kneeling next to the bed.
Jagerstatter faces up to life in prison if convicted, according to news reports.
Jagerstatter's name change appears related to Blessed Franz Jagerstatter (1907-1943), a World War II Austrian conscientious objector sentenced to death and executed.
[Dan Morris-Young is NCR's West Coast correspondent. His email is email@example.com.]
July 25 Affidavit of Probable Cause for Arrest
July 22 Jagerstatter Statement from Boise diocese
Just $5 a month supports NCR's independent Catholic journalism.
We are committed to keeping our online journalism open and available to as many readers as possible. To do that, we need your help. Join NCR Forward, our new membership program.
Looking for comments?
We've suspended comments on NCRonline.org for a while. If you missed that announcement, learn more about our decision here.