A former Catholic priest in Louisiana who preyed on 17 men who were intoxicated or needed help, drugging and photographing them — and sexually assaulting at least a dozen of them — was sentenced on Friday to 25 years in prison.
Judge Shayna Beevers Morvant of the 24th Judicial District Court handed down the sentence to the former priest, Stephen Sauer, 61, after he pleaded guilty on Friday to 13 counts of sexual battery, nine counts of third-degree rape, 17 counts of video voyeurism and 16 misdemeanor charges of drug possession, according to a news release from the district attorney for Jefferson Parish, which is in southeastern Louisiana and part of the greater New Orleans area. The judge also ordered Mr. Sauer to register as a sex offender and barred him from contacting 12 of the victims for life.
Over a period of two years beginning in the fall of 2019, prosecutors said, Mr. Sauer preyed on scores of men in various states of distress and vulnerability in the French Quarter of New Orleans, a neighborhood frequented by tourists and known for its nightlife, In some cases, he would drug their drinks or give them “sleep-inducing substances,” prosecutors said.
Pretending to offer them assistance, he would bring them back to his home in Metairie, La., the largest city in Jefferson Parish, prosecutors said. He then photographed or videotaped them and sexually assaulted some of them, according to prosecutors. Mr. Sauer would often share photos of the victims online and in email correspondences with others, the district attorney’s office added.
Many of the victims were visiting from out of state, lost or separated from friends.
Among the drugs Mr. Sauer used to incapacitate victims was Zolpidem, a narcotic for treating insomnia that has also been used as a date rape drug, prosecutors said. Some of the victims were identified because investigators found driver’s licenses and other identification among photos that Mr. Sauer had taken.
Detectives estimate there could be more than 50 additional victims who had not been identified.
A lawyer for Mr. Sauer did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.
The Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s office declined to comment on the case.
Before his arrest in 2021, Mr. Sauer’s LinkedIn profile showed he had been the executive director of Arc of Greater New Orleans, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities. Before that, he worked as a faculty member at the University of San Francisco, a private Jesuit university. He also spent four years as a pastor at a Roman Catholic church in New Orleans.
The Arc of Greater New Orleans did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. The church where Mr. Sauer had served as a pastor declined to comment.
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office began investigating Mr. Sauer in June 2021 after he sent his computer to an electronics store to be fixed.
“He sent a hard drive off for repair to a place in New York,” said Jason Rivarde, a spokesman for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. “And there was some stuff discovered on that hard drive that led to the investigation.”
A technician at the store found hundreds of photos on Mr. Sauer’s hard drive of the victims that suggested that they had been sexually assaulted, the district attorney’s office said. Law enforcement officers in New York the authorities in Louisiana, which began an investigation. Mr. Sauer was arrested in December 2021, Mr. Rivarde said.