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Shocked: Arrest of head of ArcGNO stuns neighbors

“Stephen's always been really sweet and nice and friendly. I'm still kind of like reeling from the news. I had no idea," said a neighbor of Stephen Sauer.

METAIRIE, La. — Neighbors of Stephen Sauer, a former Jesuit priest and, until his arrest Monday, the director of ARC of Greater New Orleans, were stunned to find out about him being booked on charges of video voyeurism and sexual battery.

“I’m shocked right now. Every afternoon I’d see him walking his dog,” said one neighbor, Charisse Celino. “Stephen's always been really sweet and nice and friendly. I'm still kind of like reeling from the news. I had no idea.”

ARC is a non-profit to help the mentally handicapped, especially well-known for employing handicapped adults to sort and sell used Mardi Gras beads. So far, no evidence has been presented that links any of the alleged crimes to Sauer's work with the disabled. 

But when Jefferson Parish deputies served a search warrant on Sauer's house in Metairie Monday afternoon, what they found was enough to arrest him on the spot. 

In addition to the quick arrest, Sauer, 59, has been held without bail since then under a provision known as Gwen's Law, a Louisiana statute adopted in 2014 to keep suspects locked up for up to five days as a cooling-off period, usually in domestic violence cases.

Loyola Law Professor Dane Ciolino said the use of Gwen’s Law in Sauer’s case is unusual, but applicable.

“Gwen's Law typically applies in the context of domestic abuse, stalking, relationships gone bad. But there is a section of Gwen's Law that does apply to certain sex offenders, or alleged sex offenders,” Ciolino said.

The sexual battery count, a crime of violence, qualifies Sauer him for the stricter detention, with his bail hearing not scheduled until Thursday. At that hearing, prosecutors could provide an early glimpse of the evidence, which authorities say comes from the seizure of a massive collection of photos and videos from multiple electronic devices that were seized.

“These are very serious allegations against a very prominent person, so whether to apply Gwen's Law and whether to set bail or to detain him until trial is going to be a difficult one for this judge,” Ciolino said.

In addition to ARC director, from which he was removed Monday, Sauer has held posts ranging from the pastor of the Immaculate Conception Church in downtown New Orleans to serving as a trustee at Loyola University.

A spokesperson for the Jesuits said that Sauer left the order “at his own request" in 2020.

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s office said the investigation could lead to more victims and charges. The department said anyone with additional information can call JPSO’s Personal Violence Section at (504) 364-5300.

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