Attorney: Case against Rev. Robert DeLand is false, investigation is 'witch hunt'

Published: Apr. 5, 2018 at 5:26 PM EDT
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(4/4/2018) - The attorney for the Rev. Robert DeLand lashed out at police and prosecutors for conducting a "witch hunt" against his client on the day DeLand faced four new charges.

Alan Crawford of Saginaw issued a statement Thursday afternoon claiming DeLand's innocence and questioning the investigation into his client's alleged sexual assault.

DeLand, pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Freeland, initially was arrested in late February after police allegedly caught him in the act using a 17-year-old from Tittabawassee Township as an undercover informant.

DeLand was charged with two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of gross indecency between males. He was released on bond after arraignment and placed on a GPS tether, which allows authorities to track his movements.

The alleged sexual abuse involved the Tittabawassee Township boy in the rectory of St. Agnes Parish and a 22-year-old man in his condominium on Mallard Cove in Saginaw Township.

After the four new charges were filed Thursday, DeLand was arrested again and taken back to the Saginaw County Jail. He remained in custody Thursday evening awaiting arraignment on the new charges.

Authorities say the new charge of second-degree criminal sexual conduct is based on DeLand's alleged behavior with a third victim, who has not been identified. The other three charges are based on alleged conduct with the original two victims.

Crawford called the charges against DeLand "outright appalling" and the police investigation into the case "disgusting," "an atrocity" and "a witch hunt."

"I am beyond shocked, not at what Father Deland did, but the manner in which the police department operated," Crawford wrote in the statement. "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."

Crawford said police using the 17-year-old as an undercover informant amounts to "the text book definition of entrapment." He believes the teen was "troubled" and already on probation sent in to "seduce Father Deland."

Crawford accused the investigators of coaching the teenager and "telling him things to do so they could create a case against Father DeLand." He believes no criminal activity has occurred.

"The teenager and his family jumped at the opportunity because they viewed this as a pay day," Crawford said. "It’s obvious, they were only concerned with money and rising from their current economic situation."

The family of the 17-year-old has hired the Fieger Law Firm to file a civil lawsuit against DeLand, Saginaw Bishop Joseph Cistone and the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw. They are seeking an unspecified financial judgment over $25,000.

"For the family this is only about money," Crawford said.

He called the allegations from the 22-year-old "just as baseless."

"This (is) an individual that had a 0.27 (blood alcohol content) and is saying whatever he can to also improve his financial situation," Crawford said.

He considers the new charges filed Thursday, including the addition of a third alleged victim, a scheme by police and prosecutors to "make it appear as if they do have a case."

"This is an injustice," Crawford said. "When all is said and done I am confident that Father Robert DeLand will be exonerated."