The Rev. Victor Jagerstatter was charged Monday with raping a Mountain Home Air Force Base airman while the airman lay passed out in the early morning hours of July 9.
Jagerstatter, 39, is a Catholic priest at Our Lady of Good Counsel parish. He was released on his own recognizance despite the prosecutor’s request for a $20,000 bond.
Nearly 100 parishioners from the Mountain Home church and others in Weiser and Caldwell overflowed into the courtroom. Many were wearing “I Stand with Fr. Victor” badges. Others carried posters which read “Fr. Victor is innocent.”
They recited the Lord’s Prayer and sang “Amazing Grace” in the hallway outside the basement courtroom.
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Magistrate Judge David Epis cited the crowd as part of the reason for releasing Jagerstatter without bond, saying those supporters would help ensure he showed up in court.
As supporters left the courtroom following the hearing, one of them called out “God bless you Father.”
If convicted, Jagerstatter faces up to life in prison.
The victim had rented a room from Jagerstatter since June 30, according to a probable cause affidavit filed by Mountain Home police.
The victim went to a party on July 8 where he drank and became intoxicated. He returned to his room at about 3 a.m. July 9, fully clothed.
He awoke the next morning partially exposed with Jagerstatter kneeling beside him, according to the affidavit. He described to police circumstances that suggest oral contact took place. The victim said he never gave permisson for Jagerstatter to have sexual contact with him.
Police originally arrested Jagerstatter Friday afternoon on suspicion of sexual abuse and exploitation of a vulnerable adult — the affidavit cites the victim’s level of intoxication. By Monday, prosecutors had changed that to one count of rape, a felony that specifically requires penetration to have occurred during the offense.
Keith Roark, Jagerstatter’s attorney, asked for a preliminary hearing; that is now set for 3 p.m. Aug. 8. At such a hearing, prosecutors must convince the judge that a case merits advancing to district court and a full trial.
A no-contact order was also filed in the case.
Jagerstatter was arrested Friday afternoon, The Roman Catholic Diocese of Boise released a statement saying the priest has been been placed on administrative leave and promising to cooperate with law enforcement.
Ordained in 2006, Jagerstatter serves the Mountain Home church and has responsibilities at churches in Glenns Ferry, Bruneau and Grand View.