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Former Calif. priest is sentenced for sexual conduct at ‘private Mass’

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. -- A former Roman Catholic priest was sentenced to 10 years of probation after pleading guilty to sexual contact with a Mendota Heights woman during a private Mass, according to Dakota County prosecutors.

Jacob Andrew Bertrand, 35, who had been a priest in San Diego, pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct in January. The probation sentence was announced Monday by Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom. If Bertrand violates any of its conditions, he could be sentenced to four years in prison.

Backstrom praised Assistant County Attorney Heather Pipenhagen, who prosecuted the case.

Bertrand had been placed on leave by the Catholic Church in California.

As part of the plea deal, a second count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct was dismissed.

In the summer of 2010, Bertrand “wore his stole, and had candles burning,” and the woman “straddled Bertrand while he performed the Sacrifice of the Mass” in her Mendota Heights home, according to a criminal complaint.

The two had previously kissed and Bertrand had “mystically proposed” to her, according to the complaint.

The woman reported the conduct to church officials in 2012 and 2014, and Bertrand was charged in 2016.