NEW ORLEANS — Bail was increased Monday for former priest and non-profit director Stephen Sauer after he was re-booked last week on 26 new counts related to possession and use of prescription drugs that prosecutors say were used to knock out his victims of sexual assault and voyeurism.
Sauer, 59, was arrested after a raid of his Metairie home last week and booked with five counts of video voyeurism and one count of sexual assault. His original bail of $75,000 was increased Monday to $138,000 after he re-booked Friday on 26 counts related to possession and use of prescription drugs.
Jefferson Parish detectives also tacked on one additional count of video voyeurism, including a sixth victim to the total of men they say were photographed in sexual poses without their consent.
Upon his arrest last week, Sauer was immediately fired from his job as the director of ARC-GNO, a non-profit that helps the developmentally disabled, including its popular program of sorting and selling recycled Mardi Gras beads.
At Sauer’s bail hearing Monday, prosecutor Kellie Rish said the drugs found in a cigar box during a second search of Sauer's home. Police are alleging that Sauer used the drugs to incapacitate his victims, who ranged in age from 21 to 48.
Rish said the victims told detectives that they did not give their consent to be photographed passed out while being sexually compromised.
The drugs found in Sauer’s home included anti-seizure drug gabapentin and anti-depressant Trazadone, Rish said. Detectives also found syringes, pill cutters, eye-droppers and plastic bags, she said.
Veteran criminal defense attorney Gary Wainwright said charges involving prescription medicine can be tricky to prove in court.
“They (Jefferson Parish authorities) suppose he gave drugs to someone,” said Wainwright, who has no connection to the case. “Those things are very difficult with a historical case where you can't do a blood test.”
But Wainwright said the video voyeurism statute is more clear-cut, and can be used any time authorities can prove that sexual photos or videos were taken without consent.
“Even if you're having a consensual kinky sexual relationship, it's illegal to take photographs without the person's explicit consent,” Wainwright said. “And even if you take those photographs for the two of you to enjoy, there's a crime if you share it to someone else.”
Rish also revealed that the photos were discovered after Sauer sent a hard drive to New York to be repaired. Authorities there allegedly finding hundreds of sexual images.
“You don't get to meet a person like me if you haven't made at least one dumb decision,” Wainwright said. “And sending a hard drive like that to someone to be looked at would be certainly classed as a very dumb decision.”
All of this has come as a shock to those who knew Sauer as a non-profit director and, until he resigned last year, a Jesuit priest who once served as the pastor at Immaculate Conception Church in downtown New Orleans.
“A person can accomplish a lot of very meaningful things for others and be caring and compassionate in their public life,” Wainwright said. “But who really ever knows what goes on behind closed doors.”
Sauer’s attorney Michael Ciaccio did not return calls for comment.