A former priest accused of sexually abusing young men has entered a no contest plea to multiple charges.
Jury selection was scheduled to begin Tuesday morning for Robert DeLand’s second trial. But before that could get underway he entered a no contest plea to three felonies including criminal sexual conduct in the second degree, gross indecency between males, and imitation of a controlled substance manufacture and distribution.
Chief Assistant Prosecutor Mark Gaertner said that his decision to plead no contest was a wise one.
"Rolling the dice against the tape recordings that we had probably would've been a foolish idea," Gaertner said. "We worked over the weekend in consultation with Mr. DeLand's attorney Alan Crawford. Ms. Hoover was in contact with him both Sat and Sun, a possible plea agreement was discussed and it was finalized late Mon."
In exchange, a charge of attempted criminal sexual conduct in the second degree and a charge of furnishing alcohol to a minor were dropped.
At a press conference held on March 27, Gaertner talked about why he felt DeLand had no choice but to enter a no contest plea. He felt this way even though DeLand was acquitted on three criminal charges during his first scheduled trial.
"The second trial had tape recordings and they were going to be admitted into evidence and they were going to be quite substantial evidence of his guilt, is what we believe," Gaertner said.
DeLand, 72, was a pastor at St. Agnes Church in Freeland, he also volunteered at Freeland High School.
He was arrested a little more than a year ago after three men came forward accusing him of sexual assault and other crimes.
DeLand was found “not guilty” in one of those cases last week.
Deland must register pursuant to the sex offender registration act. He will remain free on bond until his sentencing by Judge Darnell Jackson, on April 25.
"I believe he will hand out an appropriate sentence and we'll respect that," Gaertner said.