Prosecutor jabs back after DeLand's attorney calls charges 'outr - WNEM TV 5

Prosecutor jabs back after DeLand's attorney calls charges 'outright appalling'

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Robert DeLand (Source: Saginaw County Jail) Robert DeLand (Source: Saginaw County Jail)
SAGINAW COUNTY, MI (WNEM/AP) -

A Catholic priest in the Saginaw area is facing additional charges.

Rev. Robert DeLand was jailed Thursday, April 5 on four additional charges, including: 

  • Controlled Substance-Imitation Manufacture or Distribution (Felony, 2 years)
  • Criminal Sexual Conduct-Second Degree Assault (Felony, 5 years)
  • Criminal Sexual Conduct-Second Degree-Personal Injury (Felony, 15 years)
  • Alcohol-Selling/Furnishing to a Minor (Misdemeanor, 60 days in jail)

DeLand, of Freeland, originally was charged in February with criminal sexual conduct for allegedly assaulting two males, ages 21 and 17. Det. Brian Berg with the Tittabawassee Township Police Department said three of the new charges involved the same victim from the original February charges. 

The fourth charge involved an additional 18-year-old victim who claims DeLand tried to sexually assault him inside St. Agnes Church in May 2017.

"The day after the May 2017 incident, the victim's father reported the incident to the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw and never heard back from them, nor received word the police were notified by them," a press release from Berg said. 

After DeLand's arrest in February, the victim's father and the victim reached out to investigators about the incident. 

The 71-year-old DeLand pleaded not guilty to the original charges in February. Attorney Alan Crawford said in a statement the charges against his client are "outright appalling." 

The fact that Father Robert Deland is facing any charges is outright appalling. This investigation, these cases, are nothing more than a witch hunt. I am beyond shocked, not at what Father Deland did, but the manner in which the police department operated. There is no criminal activity. There is no criminal intent. This is a man of God that was doing his job of serving his community and helping those in need.

Furthermore, this case is the text book definition of entrapment. The police, of all people sent a troubled high school student undercover, that was already on probation, and attempted to use this teenager to seduce Father Deland.

The teenager and his family jumped at the opportunity because they viewed this as a pay day. It’s obvious, they were only concerned with money and rising from their current economic situation. They wasted no time hiring an attorney and filing a civil suit in federal court. For the family this is only about money.

This case is an atrocity. The lead detective was coaching the teenager and telling him things to do so they could CREATE a case against Father Deland. It’s disgusting. Even after months and months of this scheme, still no criminal activity. I’ve never seen anything like this. This is a true witch hunt. And now, the Prosecutors office has realized that their case isn’t as strong as they initially believed so they’ve added additional charges to make it appear as if they do have a case.

The other “alleged” victim’s claims are just as baseless. This an individual that had a .27 BAC and is saying whatever he can to also improve his financial situation.

This is an injustice. When all is said and done I am confident that Father Robert  Deland will be exonerated.

The Saginaw County Prosecutor's Office is jabbing back following Crawford's statement, saying the verbal attacks against victims are "unfounded." 

The following is a statement from the Special Investigative Team that is investigating allegations against Father Robert Deland and the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw:

The recent verbal attacks on the victims in these cases are unfounded. The charges are based, in part, on audio/visual police recordings. Any attempts to discourage other victims to come forward by letting them know that they too will be publicly attacked will also be addressed.

“Law enforcement will continue to investigate the leads they have been provided. We will not be deterred from pursuing the alleged criminal activity which has been brought to our attention. We encourage other victims to continue to come forward so that those who are responsible for any attempt to cover up abuse of minors by priests are likewise brought to justice.

The diocese suspended him and a second priest who hasn't been charged.

Last month, police raided diocese offices, a bishop's home and the rectory at the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption in Saginaw.

The diocese issued the following statement after DeLand's recent charges:

It would be inappropriate for the Diocese of Saginaw to comment on the specifics due to the ongoing criminal investigation, as well as pending civil litigation. 

The Diocese has and continues to encourage any victims of clergy abuse or anyone who knows a victim to make direct contact with law enforcement.  

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