Every now and then, a priest will appear in the news for all the wrong reasons—alongside a mugshot—and the lurid details are fairly predictable.
I didn’t see this story coming.
59-year-old Stephen Sauer used to serve as pastor of Immaculate Conception Jesuit Church in New Orleans from 2008-2012; last year, he requested to leave the order entirely for reasons unknown. Since 2017, he was the executive director of a non-profit group called Arc of Greater New Orleans (ArcGNO), which works to help “people with intellectual and developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and autism.” It’s just an incredible organization and you can imagine the staff members are the kinds of selfless, giving people who want to make life better for those around them.
That’s why it came as a shock when Sauer was arrested on December 13.
According to court documents, Sauer had sent his computer’s hard drive to a company based in New York for repairs. Nothing weird about that. But when the technicians looked at the hard drive, they discovered hundreds of pictures depicting sexual assault… and contacted the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office.
This is disturbing, I know, but here’s what they found:
The device contained photos of adult men who appeared to be asleep, unconscious or under the influence of an unknown substance while in “various stages of undress,” authorities said.
In some photos, the men’s genitals were exposed and being fondled. In others, genitals can be seen on their faces, authorities said. Five victims between the ages of 21 and 48 were identified and interviewed. The men told detectives they did not willingly participate in any of the acts nor did they consent to be photographed.
It gets worse:
In some of the photos, there was evidence of ejaculation on the men’s faces, Jefferson Parish Assistant District Attorney Kellie Rish said in a bond hearing Thursday in Jefferson Parish Magistrate Court.
There were also driver’s license images of the male victims, which allowed law enforcement to contact them and learn there was no consent. It’s not clear if the victims were people with developmental disabilities. Nonetheless, he was quickly fired from ArcGNO.
Sauer was charged with five counts of video voyeurism and one count of sexual battery after police found proof that the locations of the assaults in the images matched Sauer’s home and car. After the initial arrest, another victim came forward and a sixth charge was added to Sauer’s ledger.
In addition to those charges, cops also found that Sauer possessed prescription medication that he never actually had a prescription for—also a crime—and it’s possible those drugs were involved in the assaults.
Sauer is currently in the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center as he awaits a hearing. His bond is set at $138,000.
As with any stories like these, you have to wonder if the charges cover all his crimes, or if this is just the tip of the iceberg. So far, there’s no evidence of his alleged crimes being linked to his old church or other church-related positions.