The jury found the former priest accused of sexually assaulting young men not guilty on all charges.
In this trial, Robert DeLand was facing one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of attempted second-degree criminal sexual conduct. The jury found DeLand not guilty on both charges.
DeLand teared up while the jury delivered their verdict.
Testimony began Wednesday in the case against DeLand, and he took to the stand Thursday morning. At one point, he denied the allegations against him.
The alleged victims, and one of the victim's father took to the stand. The father commented on the toll this has taken on his family.
Closing arguments wrapped up Wednesday and the jury deliberated for a few hours before delivering the verdict.
The Most Rev. Walter A. Hurley, Apostolic Administrator for the Diocese of Saginaw released the following statement following the verdict:
"The not guilty decision regarding Rev. Robert DeLand by the jury today brings to resolution one part of a long and difficult process for all involved. We await the results of the continuing legal process. My hope, that as the criminal court process continues to evolve, a sense of peace and healing for all will be the final result. Because these matters are ongoing, I will refrain from making any additional comments until all the criminal proceedings are completed."
A second trial against DeLand is scheduled to start on Tuesday, March 26.
The case involving DeLand has had plenty of twists and turns.
Mid-Michigan residents learned of the criminal accusations against DeLand in February 2018.
Prosecutors charged DeLand with six felonies and a misdemeanor for alleged criminal sexual conduct crimes involving two men and a minor.
DeLand was a priest at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Freeland. He also volunteered at Freeland High School.
“Shocked that this could actually happen in such a small town with the person it actually happened with,” said Austin Macintosh, Freeland alumni.
The first of three preliminary exams began in April 2018. DeLand’s alleged victim in that specific case took the witness stand. The first alleged victim claimed he had an encounter with DeLand at his home.
“He had his hands on my shoulders and the next thing I know he grabbed my face and started making out with me,” the alleged victim said.
Another alleged victim said DeLand sexually assaulted him at his home as well.
“At one point when he was massaging my back he moved his hand down my butt and put his hand on my butt,” that alleged victim said.
A third alleged victim said he had a close call with DeLand during a memorial at St. Agnes Catholic Church.
“He didn’t go in for his regular handshake. He went a little bit lower than what I’m used to,” the third alleged victim said.
The court found there was enough evidence to bind DeLand over for trial.
In September 2018, DeLand pleaded no contest to the criminal charges against him. He had no prior criminal record and was looking at one year behind bars, five years of probation and would have to register as a sex offender.
DeLand rescinded his no contest plea in October 2018 after learning Judge Darnell Jackson might exceed the state sentencing guidelines and impose a stiffer penalty.
Instead of finding out what Jackson had in store for him, DeLand chose to let a jury of his peers decide his fate.
The witnesses who took the stand on March 20 were students at Freeland High School during the time of these alleged incidents in 2017. They said DeLand was a hall monitor at their school and greeted them both on several occasions.
However, during one of those meetings, a witness claims DeLand stepped on his foot and held him close, even touching him on his rear.