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Hudson priest convicted of church theft

A Hudson priest charged with taking more than $10,000 from a charity account at St. Patrick Church to feed a gambling habit has been convicted of theft.

The Rev. Father Daniel J. Dahlberg, 68, who also served at St. Bridget Catholic Church in River Falls, made an initial appearance before Judge Eric J. Lundell the afternoon of Thursday, July 7.

He pleaded no contest to one felony count of theft and no contest to one misdemeanor count of theft. The felony judgment was deferred for two years in a prosecution agreement.

Dahlberg was sentenced to probation for two years on the misdemeanor conviction.

Other conditions of the agreement included a no-gambling stipulation, full restitution, 100 hours of community service and $137.50 in court costs.

"The resolution was in the public interest," said District Attorney Eric Johnson, who prosecuted the case. "I spoke to many members at St. Patrick's and there appeared to be a call for leniency."

"Sometimes good people do bad or dumb things," Johnson said. "A major factor was he paid restitution up front."

Defense attorney James Remington said Dahlberg had completed a treatment program. A letter dated April 4 filed in the record told the court Dahlberg was in treatment in Rochester, Minn.

Johnson said the total amount of restitution was $13,000. The parish charity account involves funds to help needy families in confidence. Dahlberg had sole access to the fund and discretion for its distribution.

One count of felony theft was filed against Dahlberg on April 4. The charge covered a period from Aug. 10, 2009, through February.

Dahlberg came to St. Patrick July 1, 2009. He served as pastor until March 21.

On March 20, church officials announced the priest would be leaving the parish. A letter distributed at the church said, "It is very likely that this misconduct is the result of a serious gambling addiction which has led to personal financial issues and impaired Father Dan's judgment."

The priest admitted to investigators he took more than $10,000 from the church to cover personal, miscellaneous expenses as a result of gambling, the criminal complaint said.

The court record listed Dahlberg's current address in Foxboro. He was a veteran of 43 years in the clergy when he came to Hudson.

Dahlberg served several congregations in the area including New Richmond from 1977-1984 and River Falls from 1985-94.