Father Robert DeLand pleads no contest to sex abuse charges, avoids trial

The Rev. Robert DeLand
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SAGINAW (WJRT) (9/4/2018) - Father Robert DeLand is facing a year in jail after he pleaded no contest to seven charges on Wednesday.

The Saginaw County Prosecutor's Office announced the no contest pleas on Tuesday -- one day before 71-year-old DeLand was facing trial on six felonies and one misdemeanor charge.

A Saginaw County Circuit Court Judge has indicated he will sentence DeLand to one year in jail without the possibility of early release. If convicted at trial, DeLand would have faced a minimum of 12 to 24 months in prison.

The most serious sexual abuse charges he faced carry a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

The former senior pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Tittabawassee Township also will receive five years of probation, which is the longest term allowed in Michigan, and must register as a sex offender for life.

“We are satisfied that Mr. DeLand has been held accountable for all of his misconduct in all of the cases that we filed,” said Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Mark Gaertner, who led the investigation.

DeLand is accused of sexually assaulting a 21-year-old man at his condominium on Mallard Cove in Saginaw Township, a 17-year-old boy at in the rectory where he lived at St. Agnes Parish and a 17-year-old boy in Tittabawassee Township -- all in 2017.

DeLand pleaded no contest to the following charges:
-- gross indecency between males and attempted second-degree criminal sexual conduct causing injury involving the 21-year-old victim.
-- two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct causing personal injury, one count of delivery of an imitation controlled substance and furnishing alcohol to a minor involving a 17-year-old victim.
-- attempted second-degree criminal sexual conduct causing personal injury involving the other 17-year-old victim.

A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt, but it is treated as such at sentencing. A no contest plea is common in Michigan cases in which civil litigation is under way.

Prominent attorney Geoffrey Fieger's law firm already has filed a lawsuit against DeLand and the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw on behalf of one of the 17-year-old victims.

DeLand remains free on bond awaiting a sentencing hearing.

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