IMAGE: Vincent DeLorenzo

Vincent DeLorenzo, a former priest in Genesee County, is accused of criminal sexual conduct.

The Michigan Attorney General announced sexual assault charges against several Michigan clergy, including a former Genesee County priest, on Friday.

“Today, I am announcing the total of 21 charges of criminal sexual conduct against five men, all of whom were priests at the time that they allegedly committed these crimes,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said.

It’s a startling new revelation in the attorney general’s clergy abuse investigation.

Five priests were charged with sexual assault.

Nessel said many of their victims were children at the time.

Four of the priests have already been arrested, with another awaiting extradition from India.

“The cost of doing nothing is so enormous to all of us,” Nessel said.

The five charged priests all served in dioceses across Michigan from Kalamazoo, Detroit and Lansing. That includes Father Vincent DeLorenzo, of Genesee County, who is facing a total of six felony charges of first and second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Nessel said DeLorenzo sexually abused a child during his time at Holy Redeemer Church in Burton, but she did not disclose how old the child was.

DeLorenzo was a priest in Burton from 1988 to 2002, before he was defrocked for sexual misconduct.

So why did it take 17 years for prosecutors to charge him?

Nessel said charges were declined at the time, but new information from victims coming forward allowed them to reopen the investigation.

“There were many other cases that we discovered that were either outside the statute of limitations, so we could not charge, but these were the only ones we were able to charge,” Nessel said.

The attorney general said this is just the tip of the iceberg into their investigation and they are still asking for the public’s help. If you have been abused or if you know someone who has, contact the attorney general’s office right away.

All of this was accomplished within the span of 30 hours, which Nessel said came through a number of calls made to their tip line that were then verified by files seized from the dioceses last fall.

It's something she said never could've happened if it hadn't been for those victims coming forward to tell their story.

"I say that to remind everyone, especially to those who are victims, that we will continue to investigate each and every tip that we receive," Nessel said.

It's a message that struck a chord with former victim Andy Russell from Jackson.

He was invited to the presser to talk about his own experience after being subjected to criminal sexual conduct from former Lumen Christi priest James Rapp back in the 1980s.

"As a 14-year-old boy, had I known without the threats and had I known to talk to law enforcement, that would've been the best avenue I could've went," Russell said.

It's why he's so passionate about supporting the attorney general and her investigation so that no one gets away with crimes like these.

"Whether these priests are dead or alive, the dead priests, their victims still have a story," Russell said. "They are not separated from this, they need to be included, we feel them too."

Nessell continues to praise her team of 44 special investigators, attorneys and Michigan State Police troopers working around the clock on this investigation.

Copyright 2019 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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