FARGO – A Cass County District Court judge on Tuesday, Dec. 19, set the bail amount for a former Fargo priest who faces child sexual abuse charges at $5 million cash only – a stratospheric amount nearly unheard of in area courtrooms.
Prosecutors had asked for the amount, arguing that Fernando Laude Sayasaya posed a flight risk, given that he fled to the Philippines about 15 years ago and never returned of his own volition, even though he told investigators at the time that he would return.
Sayasaya is now being held in the Cass County Jail after federal law enforcement officials worked with Filipino authorities to extradite him to the U.S.
Sayasaya said little during a video court hearing Tuesday, politely answering questions from Judge Susan Bailey. Sayasaya’s next court hearing is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 18.
In 2002, Sayasaya was charged in Cass County District Court with two felony counts of gross sexual imposition.
The charges allege Sayasaya sexually touched two boys under the age of 15 on more than one occasion. In interviews with police, the victims said Sayasaya would touch or attempt to touch their penises and other private parts during times they visited Sayasaya at his apartment. One boy told police Sayasaya would show pornographic movies and serve him alcohol.
Sayasaya was an associate pastor at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fargo and at Blessed Sacrament in West Fargo. He was removed from his priestly duties in the Fargo Diocese in August 1998 after two brothers accused him of sexually assaulting them.
Officials in the Philippines had been trying to extradite Sayasaya since a court there ordered him to be extradited in December 2010. Sayasaya appealed the order, but it was upheld in 2012 when a warrant for Sayasaya was issued.
A federal indictment was returned on Sayasaya in January 2003 when he failed to return to the U.S. following a visit to the Philippines around Christmas 1998.
The Philippine government arrested Sayasaya about a month ago, and he was returned to Fargo over the weekend.