Priest Accused of Sexual Contact with Woman During Private Mass in Mendota Heights Home

Photo: KSTP/File

October 08, 2016 09:17 AM

WARNING: Some of the details from the criminal complaint are graphic descriptions.

Prosecutors have charged a 33-year-old priest from San Diego with two counts of criminal sexual conduct after they say he had sexual contact with a woman in Mendota Heights while providing spiritual guidance.

The Dakota County Attorney's Office charged Jacob Andrew Bertrand by summons Thursday. He's facing two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct in connection to events that allegedly happened in 2010, according to the criminal complaint made public Friday.


Bertrand is currently assigned to the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, California.

The 30-year-old woman reported the sexual contact with Bertrand to Mendota Heights Police on April 28 of this year.

In a statement, Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said, "It's a felony under Minnesota law for any member of the clergy to have sexual relations with an individual who is not their spouse, during the course of a meeting in which religious or spiritual advice, aid, or comfort is given, or while ongoing religious or spiritual advice, aid, or comfort is occurring."

The woman said she met Bertrand in 2009 when she moved to Rome, Italy, to study spirituality at a university. Bertrand was also studying spirituality and was a deacon at a Catholic church.

The two were drawn to each other, but the woman believed it was in a spiritual way, according to the complaint. She asked him to be her spiritual guide and he agreed; they began meeting every Wednesday for "holy conversation."

That fall, Bertrand told the woman about his previous sexual experiences after he told her the Holy Spirit compelled him to do so. He gave her two of his journals and she gave him her journals, in which she wrote about hopes of finding a husband while in Rome. After reading the journals, Bertrand told her he was the person she was sent to Rome to meet, the complaint says. While at a church in Rome, he held her hand and "mystically proposed."

About the same period of time, Bertrand also told her that "the Lord" had imprinted a vision in his mind of her naked and straddling him.

In June of 2010, the woman and Bertrand flew to San Diego, California, where he was ordained as a Catholic priest. While there, they kissed on multiple occasions, the complaint says.

In July, Bertrand came to Minnesota and spent about a week staying at the Mendota Heights home of the woman and her family, where he ministered them, offered the "Sacrifice of the Mass" in their living room and heard their confessions.

During the stay, he went with the woman to her grandmother's home in Wisconsin, where he used his fingers in sexual contact with the woman during a private mass, the complaint says. During that mass, he was wearing priestly stole and ejaculated during the contact, the woman told authorities.

Back in Mendota Heights later that week, the two had another private mass in the basement with candles burning and Bertrand wearing his stole. The complaint says the woman straddled Bertrand while he performed the "Sacrifice of the Mass." During the ceremony, he performed oral sex on her and ejaculated, she said.

After the ceremony, Bertrand told her they had "fulfilled the second holiest sacrifice next to Jesus and Mary on Calvary" and that what had happened between them was so "mystical" no one else would understand it, so they must not talk about it.

Later that summer, the woman got a $1,000 check from Bertrand. He told her that God told him to give her the money to use for her studies.

She spoke with him on the phone in December of 2011 and he told her "The devil tempts me to think that you will tell someone and ruin my ministry," according to the complaint.

In 2012 and 2014, the woman reported the sexual contact with Bertrand to Catholic church officials, and the 2014 report was sent to officials in the San Diego Diocese for investigation.

The woman was able to provide an investigator with a Nov. 30, 2014, bulletin from the church were Bertrand was assigned. It said he told his parishioners he had undergone a psychological evaluation and was taking a leave to seek treatment in a residential program. A few months later, the woman reported that he was reassigned to a new church in the San Diego Diocese and is currently serving at that church at this time.

After the woman reported the contact to the church in 2014, Bertrand sent her a letter apologizing for "the many injustices and scandals to your faith caused by the fault that lies on me." He also said that he had destroyed the journals they shared and had prayed for their "release from any demonic attachments that were leading me into such a folly and were keeping me from protecting you like a true priest should have."

Bertrand is scheduled to make a court appearance Monday morning in Dakota County.


Scott Theisen

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