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South Dakota priest sentenced to six years in prison for child sex abuse

The Rev. John Praveen

RAPID CITY, S.D. — A judge overruled the requests of the defense lawyer and prosecutor when he sentenced a priest to six years in prison Friday, March 29, for sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl inside a Rapid City church last fall.

What the lawyers asked for is "not adequate" for John Praveen's crime, Judge Robert Mandel said at the Rapid City state court.

He sentenced Praveen to six years in prison, minus 178 days of time served, and said Praveen would be eligible for parole after three years. Mandel said if Praveen is granted parole, the parole board could ask Homeland Security to immediately deport him to Hyderabad, India, or have him first serve parole in any state.

We're "deeply thankful for the outcome," the victim's mother said in a phone call after the sentencing. She said the judge's understanding of the seriousness of the crime is "deeply healing" to her daughter and family.

The sentencing came after Praveen, 38, pleaded guilty to one count of having sexual contact with a child under the age of 16, a crime that carries a maximum 15-year punishment. As part of the plea deal, the prosecution dropped another charge that allegedly occurred earlier in September 2018.